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THE 



ARM-CHAIR 
AT THE INN 



• F ■ HOPKINSON ■SMITH 



CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 




The 
Charles and l«Iary 
Collection 
From An Anonymous Donor 



Cornell University Library 
PS 2864.A7 

The arm-chair at the inn / 



3 1924 022 179 786 




The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924022179786 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 



BOOKS BY F. HOPKINSON SMITH 

PUBLISHED BYCHARLESSCRIBNER'S SONS 

The Akm-Chair at the Inn. Illustrated net $1.30 

Kennedy Square, Illustrated i.so 

Peter. Illustrated 1.50 

The Tides of Barnegat. Illustrated . . . 1.50 

The Fortunes of Oliver Horn. Illustrated 1.50 
The Romance op an Old-Fashioned 

Gentleman. Illustrated 1.50 

Colonel Carter's Christmas. Illustrated . 1.50 

Forty MiniJtes Late. Illustrated 1.50 

The Wood Fire in No. 3. Illustrated . . . 1.50 

The Veiled Lady. Illustrated 1.50 

At Close Range. Illustrated 1.50 

The Under Dog. Illustrated 1.50 




Mignon 



THE ARM-CHAIR 

AT THE INN 

BY 

F. HOPKINSON SMITH 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 

A. I. KELLER. HERBERT WARD 

AND THE AUTHOR 




NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 
igi2 



Copyright, 1912, by 
CHARLES SCRXBNER'S SONS 

Published August, 1912 




AUTHOR'S 
PREFACE 

If I have dared to veil 
under a thin disguise some of 
the men whose talk and ad- 
ventures fill these pages it is 
because of my profound be- 
lief that truth is infinitely 
more strange and infinitely 
more interesting than fiction. 
The characters around the 
table are all my personal friends; the incidents, 
each and every one, absolutely true, and the 
setting of the Marmouset, as well as the Inn 
itself, has been known to many hundreds of 
my readers, who have enjoyed for years the 
rare hospitality of its quaint 
and accomplished landlord. 

F. H. S. 
November, 191 1 




CONTENTS 




S^'i 



I. The Marmouset 

II. The Wood Fire and Its Friends . 

III. With Special Reference to a 

Certain Colony of Penguins . 

IV. The Arrival of a Lady of Quality . 



34 
60 



V. In which the Difference Between 
A Cannibal and a Freebooter is 
Clearly Set Forth 95 

VI. Proving that the Course of True 

Love Never Did Run Smooth . 120 

VII. In which Our Landlord Becomes 
Both Entertaining and In- 
structive 144 

vii 



CONTENTS 

ceaftes paoe 

VIII. Containing Several Experiences 
AND Adventures Showing IHe 
Wide Contrasts in Life . . . 163 

IX. In which Madame la Marquise 
Binds Up Broken Heads and 
Bleeding Hearts 182 

X. In which We Entertain a Jail- 
bird 211 

XI. In which the Habits of Certain 
Ghosts, Goblins, Bandits, and 
Other Objectionable Persons 
Are Duly Set Forth .... 240 

XII. Why Mignon Went to Market . . 267 

XIII. With a Dissertation on Round 

Pegs and Square Holes . . . 280 

XIV. A Woman's Way 304 

XV. Apple-blossoms AND White Muslin 335 



viu 



ILLUSTRATIONS 






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s< K^v R^^V^E nt'T^w'^^' wBhb^S^^^''^ 
4 I I ;U ll 'IMP :■ '} * Sfci;' ^ 






sr"-'>ri\ 



Mignon Frontispiece 



FACING 
PAGE 



Howls of derision welcomed him 30 

Flooding the garden, the flowers, and the roofs . 60 

As her boy's sagging, insensible body was brought 

clear of the wreck 132 

Herbert caught up his sketch-book and . . . trans- 
ferred her dear old head ... to paper . . . 184 

Lemois crossed the room and began searching through 

the old fifteenth-century triptych .... 240 

"Just think, monsieur, what does go on below Coco 

in the season" 308 

First, of course, came the mayor — his worthy spouse 

on his left 350 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

I 

THE MARMOUSET 

" TLJOW many did you say ?" inquired Lemois, 
our landlord. 

"Five for dinner, and perhaps one more. I 
will know when the train gets in. Have the 
fires started in the bedrooms and please tell 
Mignon and old Lea to put on their white caps." 

We were in the Marmouset at the moment 
- — the most enchanting of all the rooms in 
this most enchanting of all Normandy inns. 
Lemois was busying himself about the table, 
selecting his best linen and china — an old Vene- 
tian altar cloth and some Nancy ware — replac- 
ing the candles in the hanging chandelier, and 
sorting the silver and glass. Every one of my 
expected guests was personally known to him; 
some of them for years. All had shared his 
hospitality, and each and every one appreciated 
its rare value. Nothing was too good for them, 
and nothing should be left undone which would 
add to their comfort. 

3 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

I had just helped him light the first blaze in 
the big baronial fireplace, an occupation I revel 
in, for to me the kindling of a fire is the gather- 
ing of half a dozen friends together, each log 
nudging his neighbor, the cheer of good com- 
radeship warming them all. And a roaring 
fire it was when I had piled high the logs, 
swept the hearth, and made it ready for the 
choice spirits who were to share it with me. 
For years we have had our outings — or rather 
our "in-tings" before it — red-letter days for us 
in which the swish of a petticoat is never heard, 
and we are free to enjoy a "man's time" to- 
gether; red-letter days, too, in the calendar of 
the Inn, when even Lemois, tired out with the 
whirl of the season, takes on a new lease of life. 

His annual rejuvenation began at dawn to- 
day, when he disappeared in the direction of the 
market and returned an hour later with his 
procession of baskets filled with fish and lob- 
sters fresh out of the sea a mile away (caught at 
daylight), some capons, a string of pigeons, and 
an armful of vegetables snatched in the nick of 
time from the early grave of an impending frost. 

As for the more important items, the Chablis 
Moutonrie and Roumanee Conti — rare Bur- 
gundies — they were still asleep in their cob- 

4 



THE MAEMOUSET 

webs on a low Spanish bench that had once 
served as a temporary resting-place outside a 
cardinal's door. 

Until to-night Lemois and I have dined in 
the kitchen. You would too could you see 
it. Not by any manner of means the sort of 
an interior the name suggests, but one all shin- 
ing brass, rare pottery, copper braziers, and 
resplendent pewter, reflecting the dancing blaze 
of a huge open hearth with a spit turned by 
the weight of a cannon ball fired by the British, 
and on which — the spit, not the ball — are 
roasted the joints, chickens, and game for which 
the Inn is famous, Pierre, the sole remaining 
chef — there are three in the season — ineffectu- 
ally cudgelling his French pate under his short- 
cropped, shoe-brush hair for some dish better 
than the last. 

Because, however, of the immediate gather- 
ing of the clan, I have abandoned the kitchen 
and have shifted my quarters to the Marmou- 
set. Over it up a steep, twisted staircase with 
a dangling rope for banisters is my bedroom, 
the Chambre de Cure, next to the Chambre de 
Officier — ^where the gluttonous king tossed on 
his royal bed (a true story, I am told, with all 
the details set forth in the State Archives of 

5 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

France). Mine has a high-poster with a half 
lambrequin, or bed curtain, that being all Le- 
mois could find, and he being too honest an 
antiquary to piece it out with modern calico 
or chintz. My guests, of course, will take their 
pick of the adjoining rooms — Madame Se- 
vigne's, Grevin's, the Chambre du Roi, and the 
others — and may thank their stars that it is 
not a month back. Then, even if they had 
written ten days ahead, they would have been 
received with a shrug — one of Lemois' most 
engaging shrugs tinged with grief- — at his inabil- 
ity to provide better accommodation for their 
comfort, under which one could have seen a 
slight trace of suppressed glee at the prosperity 
of the season. They would then doubtless 
have been presented with a massive key un- 
locking the door of a box of a bedroom over 
the cake-shop, or above the apothecary's, or 
next to the man who mends furniture — all in 
the village of Dives itself. 

And now a word about the Inn itself — even 
before I tell you of the Arm-Chair or the man 
who sat in it or the others of the clan who lis- 
tened and talked back. 

Not the low-pitched, smothered-in-ivy Kings 



THE MARMOUSET 

Arms you knew on the Thames, with its swing- 
ing sign, horse-block, and the rest of it; nor the 
queer sixteenth-century tavern in that Dutch 
town on the Maas, with its high wainscoting, 
leaded window-panes, and porcelain stove set 
out with pewter flagons — not that kind of an 
inn at all. 

This one bolsters up one corner of a quaint 
little town in Normandy; is faced by walls of 
sombre gray stone loop-holed with slits of win- 
dows, topped by a row of dormers, with here 
and there a chimney, and covers an area as 
large as a city block, the only break in its mo- 
notony being an arched gate-way in which 
swing a pair of big iron-bound doors. These 
are always open, giving the passer-by a glimpse 
of the court within. 

You will be disappointed, of course, when 
you drive up to it on a summer's day. You 
will think it some public building supported by 
the State — a hospital or orphan asylum — and, 
tourist-like, will search for the legend deep cut 
in the key-stone of the archway to reassure 
yourself of its identity. Nobody can blame 
you — hundreds have made that same mistake, 
I among them. 

But don't lose heart — keep on through the 
7 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

gate, take a dozen steps into the court-yard and 
look about, and if you have any red corpuscles 
left in your veins you will get a thrill that will 
take your breath away. Spread out before you 
lies a flower-choked yard flanked about on three 
sides by a chain of moss-encrusted, red-tiled, 
seesaw roofs, all out of plumb. Below, snug 
under the eaves, runs a long go-as-you-please 
corridor, dodging into a dozen or more bed- 
rooms. Below this again, as if tired out with 
the weight, staggers a basement from which 
peer out windows of stained glass protected 
by Spanish grills of polished iron, their leaded 
panes blinking in the sunshine, while in and 
out, up the door-jambs, over the lintels, along 
the rain-spouts, even to the top of the ridge- 
poles of the wavy, red-tiled roofs, thousands of 
blossoms and tangled vines are running riot. 

And this is not all. Close beside you stands 
a fuchsia-covered, shingle-hooded, Norman well, 
and a little way off a quaint kiosk roofed with 
flowering plants, and near by a great lichen- 
covered bust of Louis VI, to say nothing of 
dozens of white chairs and settees grouped 
against a background of flaring reds and brill- 
iant greens. And then, with a gasp of joy, you 
follow the daring flight of a giant feather-blown 

8 



THE MARMOUSET 

clemaris in a clear leap from the ground. Its 
topmost tendrils throttling the dormers. 

Even then your surprises are not over. You 
have yet to come in touch with the real spirit 
of the Inn, and be introduced to our jewel of a 
dining-room, the "Marmouset," opening flat 
to the ground and hidden behind a carved 
oaken door mounted in hammered iron : a low- 
ceilinged, Venetian-beamed room, with priceless 
furniture, tapestries, and fittings — chairs, tables, 
wainscoting of carved oak surmounted by Span- 
ish leather; quaint andirons, mirrors, arms, cab- 
inets, silver, glass, and china; all of them gen- 
uine and most of them rare, for Lemois, our 
landlord, has searched the Continent from end 
to end. 

Yes! — a great inn this inn of William the 
Conqueror at Dives, and unique the world 
over. You will be ready now to believe all its 
legends and traditions, and you can quite un- 
derstand why half the noted men of Europe 
have, at one time or another, been housed 
within its hospitable walls, including such ex- 
alted personages as Louis XI and Henry IV — 
the latter being the particular potentate who 
was laid low with a royal colic from a too free 
indulgence in the seductive oyster — not to men- 

9 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

tion such rare spirits as Moliere, Dumas, George 
Sand, Daubigny, as well as most of the Httera- 
teurs, painters, and sculptors of France, includ- 
ing the immortal Grevin, many of whose draw- 
ings decorate the walls of one of the garden 
kiosks, and whose apartment still bears his 
name. 

And not only savants and men of rank and 
letters, but the frivolous world of to-day — the 
flotsam and jetsam of Trouville, Houlgate, and 
Cabourg — have gathered here in the afternoon 
for tea in the court-yard, their motors crowd- 
ing the garage, and at night in the Marmouset 
when, under the soft glow of overhead candles 
falling on bare shoulders and ravishing toilettes, 
laughter and merry-making extend far into the 
small hours. At night, too, out in the gardens, 
what whisperings and love-makings in the soft, 
starry air! — what seductive laughter and little 
half-smothered screams! And then the long 
silences with only the light of telltale cigarettes 
to mark their hiding-places! 

All summer this goes on until one fine morn- 
ing the most knowing, or the most restless, or 
the poorest of these gay birds of passage (the 
Inn is not a benevolent institution) spreads its 
wings and the flight begins. The next day the 

lo 



THE MARMOUSET 

court is empty, as are all the roosting-places 
up and down the shore. Then everybody at 
the Inn takes a long breath — the first they have 
had for weeks. 

About this time, too, the crisp autumn air, 
fresh from the sea, begins to blow, dulling the 
hunger for the open. The mad whirl of blos- 
soms no longer intoxicates. Even the gera- 
niums, which have flamed their bravest all 
summer, lose their snap and freshness; while 
the blue and pink hydrangeas hang their heads, 
tired out with nodding to so many passers-by: 
they, too, are paying the price; you can see it 
in their faces. Only the sturdy chrysanthe- 
mums are rejoicing in the first frost, while the 
more daring of the roses are unbuckling their 
petals ready to fight their way through the 
perils of an October bloom. 

It is just at this blessed moment that I move 
in and settle down with my companions, for 
now that the rush is over, and the little Nor- 
mandy maids and the older peasant women 
who have served the hungry and thirsty mob 
all summer, as well as two of the three French 
cooks, have gone back to their homes, we have 
Lea, Mignon, and Pierre all to ourselves. 

I put dear old Lea first because it might as 
II 



THE ARM-CHAIE AT THE INN 

well be said at once that without her loving 
care life at the Inn, with all its comforts, 
would be no life at all — none worth living. 
Louis, the running-water painter, known as the 
Man in High-Water Boots — one of the best 
beloved of our group — always insists that in 
the days gone by Lea occupied a pedestal at 
the main entrance of the twelfth-century church 
at the end of the street, and is out for a holi- 
day. In proof he points out the empty pedes- 
tal set in a niche, and has even gone so far as 
to pencil her name on the rough stone. 

Mignon, however, he admits, is a saint of 
another kind — a dainty, modest, captivating 
little maid, who looks at you with her won- 
dering blue eyes, and who is as shy as a 
frightened gazelle. There is a young fisher- 
man named Gaston, a weather-tanned, frank, 
fearless fellow who knows all about these eyes. 
He brings the fish to the Inn — those he catches 
himself — and Mignon generally manages to 
help in their unpacking. It is not a part of 
her duty. Her special business is to make 
everybody happy; to crack the great white 
sugar-loaf into bits with a pair of pincers — 
no machine-made dominoes for Lemois — and 
to turn the coffee-roaster — an old-fashioned, 

12 



THE MARMOUSET 

sheet-iron drum swinging above a brazier of hot 
coals — and to cool its contents by tossing them 
in a pan — much as an Egyptian girl winnows 
wheat. It is a pity you never tasted her cof- 
fee, served in the garden — old Lea on the run 
with it boiling-hot to your table. You might 
better have stopped what you were doing and 
taken steamer for Havre and the Inn. You 
would never have regretted it. 

Nor would you even at this late hour regret 
any one of the dishes made by Pierre, the chef. 
And now I think of it, it is but fair to tell you 
that if you repent the delay and show a fit 
appreciation of his efforts, or come properly 
endorsed (I'll give you a letter), he may, per- 
haps, invite you into his kitchen which I have 
just vacated, a place of such various enticing 
smells from things baking, broiling, and frying; 
with unforgettable, appetizing whiffs of burnt 
sugar, garlic, fine herbs, and sherry, to say 
nothing of the flavors of bowls of mayonnaise, 
heaps of chopped onions, platters of cream — 
even a basket of eggs still warm from the nest 
— that the memory of it will linger with you 
for the rest of your days. 

Best of all at this season, we have quite to 
ourselves that prince of major-domos, our land- 

13 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

lord, Lemois. For as this inn is no ordinary 
inn, this banquet room no ordinary room, and 
this kitchen no ordinary kitchen, so, too, is 
Monsieur Lemois no ordinary landlord. A 
small, gray, gently moving, low-voiced man 
with thoughtful, contented face, past the prime 
of life; a passionate lover of animals, flowers, 
and all beautiful things; quick of temper, but 
over in a moment; a poet withal, yet a man 
with so quaint a humor and of so odd a taste, 
and so completely absorbed in his pets, cuisine, 
garden, and collection, that it is easy to believe 
that when he is missed from his carnal body, he 
will be found wandering as a ghost among these 
very flower-beds or looking down from the walls 
of the Marmouset — doubtless an old haunt of 
his prior to this his latest incarnation. Only 
here would he be really happy, and only here, 
perhaps, among his treasures, would he be fully 
understood. 

One of the rarest of these — a superb Floren- 
tine chair — the most important chair he owns, 
stood within reach of my hand as I sat listen- 
ing to him before the crackling blaze. 

"Unquestionably of the sixteenth century!" 
he exclaimed with his customary enthusiasm, 
as I admired it anew, for, although I had heard 

14 



THE MAEMOUSET 

most of it many times, I am always glad to lis- 
ten, so quaint are his descriptions of every- 
thing he owns, and so sincerely does he believe 
in the personalities and lineage of each indi- 
vidual piece. 

"I found it," he continued, "in a little chapel 
in Ravenna. For years it had stood outside the 
cabinet of Alessandro, one of the Florentine 
dukes. Think of all the men and women who 
have sat in it, and of all the cruel and anxious 
thoughts that raced through their brains while 
they waited for an audience with the tyrant! 
Nothing like a chair for stirring up old mem- 
ories and traditions. And do you see the carved 
heads on the top ! I assure you they are alive ! 
I have caught them smiling or frowning too 
often at the talk around my table not to know. 
Once when De Bouf, the great French clown 
was here, the head next you came near split- 
ting itself in two over his grimaces, and when 
Marcot told one of his pathetic stories that 
other one wept such tears that I had to mop 
them up to keep the velvet from being spoilt. 
You don't believe it? — ^you laugh! Ah! — that 
is just like you modem writers — ^you do not be- 
lieve anything — ^you have no imagination ! You 
must measure things with a rule! You must 

IS 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

have them drawn on the blackboard! It is be- 
cause you do not see them as they are. You 
shut your eyes and ears to the real things of 
life; it is because you cannot understand that 
it is the soul of the chair that laughs and weeps. 
Monsieur Herbert will not think it funny. He 
understands these queer heads — and, let me tell 
you, they understand him. I have often caught 
them nodding and winking at each other when 
he says something that pleases them. He has 
himself seen things much more remarkable. 
That is the reason why he is the only one of 
all who enters this room worthy to sit in it." 

"You like Herbert, then?" I interrupted, 
knowing just what he would say. 

"How absurd, niy dear friend! You like a 
filet, and a gown on a woman— but you don't 
like a man. You love him — when he is a man! 
— and Monsieur Herbert is all that. It is the 
English in him which counts. Since he was 
fourteen years of age he has been roaming 
around the world doing everything a man could 
to make his bread — and he a gentleman born, 
with his father's house to go home to if he 
pleased. Yet he has been farm-hand, acrobat, 
hostler, sailor before the mast, newspaper 
reporter, next four years in Africa among 
i6 



THE MARMOUSET 

the natives; then painter, and now, at forty- 
five, after only six years' practice, one of the 
great sculptors of France, with his work in 
the Luxembourg and the ribbon of the Legion 
in his button-hole! Have I not the right to 
say that he is a man? And one thing more: 
not for one moment has he ever lost the 
good heart and the fine manner of the gentle- 
man. Ah! that is most extraordinary of all, 
when you think of the adventures and hair- 
breadth escapes and sufferings he has gone 
through! Did he ever tell you of his stealing 
a ride in Australia on a locomotive tender to 
get to Sydney, two hundred miles away?" 

I shook my head. 

"Well — get him to tell you. You will be so 
sorry for him, even now, that you cannot keep 
the tears from your eyes. Listen ! There goes 
the scream of his horn — and I wager you, too, 
that he brings that delightful wild man. Mon- 
sieur Louis, with him." 



17 



II 

THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

npWO men burst in. 

Herbert, compact, wellknit, ruddy, sim- 
ple in his bearing and manner; Louis, broad- 
shouldered, strong as a bull, and bubbling over 
with unrepressed merriment. Both were muf- 
fled to their chins — Herbert in his fur motor- 
coat, his cap drawn close over his steady gray 
eyes; Louis in his big sketching-cloak and hood 
and a pair of goggles which gave him so owlish 
a look that both Mignon and Lea broke out 
laughing at the sight. 

"Fifty miles an hour, High-Muck" (I am 
High-Muck) "this brute of a Herbert kept up. 
Everything went by in a blur; but for these 
gig-lamps I'd be stone blind." 

The brace and the snap of the crisp autumn 
air clinging to their clothes suddenly permeated 
the room as with electricity. Even slow-mov- 
ing Lemois felt its vivifying current as he hur- 
riedly dragged the Florentine nearer the fire. 

"See, Monsieur Herbert, the chair has been 
i8 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

waiting for you. I have kept even Monsieur 
High-Muck out of it." 

"That's very good of you, Lemois," returned 
the sculptor as he handed Lea his coat and 
gloves and settled himself in its depths. "I'm 
glad to get back to it. What the chair thinks 
about it is another thing — make it tell you some 
time." 

" But it has — only last night one of the heads 
was saying " 

"None of that, Lemois," laughed Louis, 
abreast of the fireplace now, his fingers out- 
spread to the blaze. "Too many wooden heads 
talking around here as it is. I don't, of course, 
object to Herbert's wobbling around in its up- 
holstered magnificence, but he can't play doge 
and monopolize everything. Shove your high- 
backed pulpit with its grinning cherubs to one 
side, I tell you, Herbert, and let me warm up " 
— and off came the cloak and goggles, his broad 
shoulders and massive arms coming into view. 
Then tossing them to Mignon, he turned to me. 

"There's one thing you're good for, High- 
Muck-a-Muck, if nothing else, and that is to 
keep a fire going. If I wanted to find you, 
and there was a chimney within a mile, I'd be 
sure you were sitting in front of the hearth with 

19 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

the tongs in your hand" — here he kicked a big 
log into place bringing to life a swarm of sparks 
that blazed out a welcome and then went laugh- 
ing up the chimney. "By thunder! — isn't this 
glorious! Crowd up, all of you — this is the 
best yet! Lemois, won't you please shove just 
a plain, little chair this way for me? No — 
come to think of it, I'll take half of Herbert's 
royal throne," and he squeezed in beside the 
sculptor, one leg dangling over the arm of the 
Florentine. 

Herbert packed himself the closer and the 
talk ran on: the races at Cabourg and Trou- 
ville; the big flight of wild geese which had 
come a month earlier than usual, and last, the 
season which had just closed with the rush of 
fashion and folly, in which chatter Lemois had 
joined. 

"And the same old crowd, of course, Le- 
mois?" suggested Herbert; "and always doing 
the same things — coffee at nine, breakfast at 
twelve, tea at five, dinner at eight, and bridge 
till midnight! Extraordinary, isn't it! I'd 
rather pound oakum in a country jail." 

"Some of them will," remarked Louis with 
a ruminating smile. "And it was a good sea- 
son, you say, Lemois?" he continued; "lots of 
20 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

people shedding shekels and lots of tips for 
dear old Lea? That's the best part of it. 
And did they really order good things — the 
beggars? — or had you cleaned them out of 
their last franc on their first visit? Come now 
— how many Peche-Flambees, for instance, have 
you served, Lemois, to the mob since July — 
and how many demoiselles de Cherbourg — 
those lovely little girl lobsters without claws?" 

"Do you mean the on-shore species — those 
you find in the hotels at Trouville?" returned 
Lemois, rubbing his hands together, his thought- 
ful face alight with humor. "We have two va- 
rieties, you know. Monsieur Louis — the on- 
shore — the Trouville kind who always bring 
their claws with them — ^you can feel them 
under their kid gloves." 

"Oh, let up! — let up!" retorted Louis. "I 
mean the kind we devour; not the kind who 
devour us." 

"Same thing," remarked Herbert in his low, 
even tones from the depths of the chair, as he 
stretched a benumbed hand toward the fire. 
"It generally ends in a broil, whether it's a 
woman or a lobster." 

Louis twisted his body and caught the sculp- 
tor by the lapel of his coat. 

21 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"None of your cheap wit, Herbert! Marc, 
the lunatic, would have said that and thought 
it funny — ^you can't afford to. Move up, I tell 
you, you bloated mud-dauber, and give me 
more room; you'd spread yourself over two 
chairs with four heads on their corners if you 
could fill them." 

Whereupon there followed one of those good- 
natured rough-and-tumble dog-plays which the 
two had kept up through their whole friend- 
ship. Indeed, a wrestling match started it. 
Herbert, then known to the world as an ex- 
plorer and writer, was studying at Julien's at 
the time. Louis, who was also a pupil, was 
off in Holland painting. Their fellow students, 
noting Herbert's compact physique, had bided 
the hour until the two men should meet, and 
it was when the room looked as if a cyclone 
had struck it — ^with Herbert on top one mo- 
ment and Louis the next — that the friendship 
began. The big-hearted Louis, too, was the 
first to recognize his comrade's genius as a 
sculptor. Herbert had a wad of clay sent home 
from which he modelled an elephant. This 
was finally tossed into a corner. There it lay a 
shapeless mass until his conscience smote him 
and the whole was transformed into a Congo 

22 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

boy. Louis insisted it should be sent to the 
Salon, and thus the explorer, writer, and painter 
became the sculptor. And so the friendship 
grew and strengthened with the years. Since 
then both men had won their gold medals at 
the Salon — Louis two and Herbert two. 

The same old dog-play was now going on 
before the cheery fire, Louis scrouging and push- 
ing, Herbert extending his muscles and standing 
pat — either of them could have held the other 
clear of the floor at arm's length — Herbert, all 
his sinews in place, ready for any move of his 
antagonist; Louis, a Hercules in build, breath- 
ing health and strength at every pore. 

Suddenly the tussle in the chair ceased and 
the young painter, wrenching himself loose, 
sprang to his feet. 

"By thunder!" he cried, "I forgot all about 
it! Have you heard the news? Hats off apd 
dead silence while I tell it! Lemois, stop that 
confounded racket with your dishes and listen! 
Let me present you to His Royal Highness, 
Monsieur Herbert, the Gold Medallist — his 
second!" and he made a low salaam to the 
sculptor stretched out in the Florentine. He 
was never so happy as when extolling Herbert's 
achievements. 

23 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Oh, I know all about it!" laughed back 
Lemois. "Le Blanc was here before breakfast 
the next morning with the Figaro. It was your 
African — am I not right, Monsieur Herbert? — 
the big black man with the dagger — the one I 
saw in the clay? Fine! — no dryads, no satyrs 
nor demons — ^just the ego of the savage. And 
why should you not have won the medal?" he 
added in serious tones that commanded instant 
attention. "Who among our sculptors — men 
who make the clay obey them — know the savage 
as you do ? And to think, too, of your being 
here after your triumph, under the roof of my 
Marmouset. Do you know that its patron 
saint is another African explorer — the first man 
who ever set foot on its western shores — none 
other than the great Bethencourt himself? He 
was either from Picardy or Normandy — the 
record is not clear — and on one of his voyages — ■ 
this, remember, was in the fifteenth century, the 
same period in which the stone chimney over 
your heads was built — he captured and brought 
home with him some little black dwarfs who be- 
came very fashionable. You see them often 
later on in the prints and paintings of the time, 
following behind the balloon petticoats and high 
headdresses of the great ladies. After a time 
24 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

they became a regular article of trade, these 
marmots, and there is still a street in Paris 
called 'The Marmouset.' So popular were they 
that Charles VI is said to have had a ministry 
composed of five of these little rascals. So, 
when you first showed me your clay sketch of 
your African, I said — 'Ah! here is the spirit 
of Bethencourt! This Monsieur Herbert is 
Norman, not EngHsh; he has brought the sav- 
age of old to light, the same savage that Bethen- 
court saw — the savage that lived and fought and 
died before our cultivated moderns vulgarized 
him.' That was a glorious thing to do, mes- 
sieurs, if you will think about it" — and he 
looked around the circle, his eyes sparkling, 
his small body alive with enthusiasm. 

Herbert extended his palms in protest, mut- 
tering something about parts of the statue not 
satisfying him and its being pretty bad in 
spots, if Lemois did but know it, thanking him 
at the same time for comparing him to so great 
a man as Bethencourt; but his undaunted ad- 
mirer kept on without a pause, his voice quiv- 
ering with pride: "The primitive man demand- 
ing of civilization his right to live! Ah! that 
is a new motive in art, my friends ! " 

"Hear him go on!" cried Louis, settling 

25 



THE -ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

himself again on the arm of Herbert's chair; 
"talks like a critic. Gentlemen, the distin- 
guished Monsieur Lemois will now address you 
on " 

Lemois turned and bowed profoundly. 

" Better than a critic, Monsieur Louis. They 
only see the outside of things. Pray don't rob 
Monsieur Herbert of his just rights or try to 
lean on him; take a whole chair to yourself 
and keep still a moment. You are like your 
running water — ^you " 

"Not a bit like it," broke in Herbert, glad to 
turn the talk away from himself. "His water 
sometimes reflects — he never does." 

"Ah! — but he does reflect," protested Lemois 
with a comical shrug; "but it is always up- 
sidedown. When you stand upsidedown your 
money is apt to run out of your pockets; when 
you think upsidedown your brains run out in 
the same way. " 

"But what would you have me do, Lemois?" 
expostulated Louis, regaining his feet that he 
might the better parry the thrust. "Get out 
into your garden and mount a pedestal?" 

"Not at this season, you dear Monsieur 
Louis; it is too cold. Oh! — never would I be 
willing to shock any of my beautiful statues in 

26 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

that way. You would look very ugly on a ped- 
estal; your shoulders are too big and your 
arms are like a blacksmith's, and then you 
would smash all my flowers getting up. No — 
I would have you do nothing and be nothing 
but your delightful and charming self. This 
room of mine, the 'Little Dwarf,' is built for 
laughter, and you have plenty of it. And now, 
gentlemen" — he was the landlord once more — ■ 
both elbows uptilted in a shrug, his shoulders 
level with his ears — "at what time shall we 
serve dinner?" 

"Not until Brierley comes," I interposed 
after we were through laughing at Louis' dis- 
comfiture. " He is due now — the Wigwag train 
from Pont du Sable ought to be in any minute." 

"Is Marc coming with him?" asked Herbert, 
pushing his chair back from the crackling blaze. 

"No — Marc can't get here until late. He's 
fallen in love for the hundredth time. Some 
countess or duchess, I understand — he is stay- 
ing at her chateau, or was. Not far from here, 
so he told Le Blanc." 

"Was walking past her garden gate," broke 
in Louis, "squinting at her flowers, no doubt, 
when she asked him in to tea — or is it another 
Fontainebleau aflPair?" 

27 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"That's one love affair of Marc's I never 
heard of," remarked Herbert, with one of his 
meaning smiles, which always remind me of the 
lambent light flashed by a glowworm, irradi- 
ating but never creasing the surface as they 
play over his features. 

"Well, that wasn't Marc's fault — ^you would 
have heard of it had he been around. He 
talked of nothing else. The idiot left Paris one 
morning, put ten francs in his pocket — about 
all he had — and went over to Fontainebleau for 
the day. Posted up at that railroad station 
was a notice, signed by a woman, describing a 
lost dog. Later on Marc came across a piece 
of rope with the dog on one end and a boy on 
the other. An hour later he presented himself 
at madame's villa, the dog at his heels. There 
was a cry of joy as her arms clasped the prodigal. 
Then came a deluge of thanks. The gratitude 
of the poor lady so overcame Marc that he 
spent every sou he had in his clothes for flowers, 
sent them to her with his compliments and 
walked back to Paris, and for a month after 
every franc he scraped together went the same 
way. He never called — never wrote her any 
letters — ^just kept on sending flowers; never 
getting any thanks either, for he never gave 

28 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

her his address. Oh, he's a Cap and Bells 
when there's a woman around!" 

A shout outside sent every man to his feet; the 
door was flung back and a setter dog bounded 
in followed by the laughing face of a man who 
looked twenty-five of his forty years. He was 
clad in a leather shooting-jacket and leggings, 
spattered to his hips with mud, and carried a 
double-barrelled breech-loading gun. Howls of 
derision welcomed him. 

"Oh! — ^what a spectacle!" cried Louis. 
"Don't let Brierley sit down, High-Muck, un- 
til he's scrubbed ! Go and scrape yourself, you 
ruffian — ^you are the worst looking dog of the 
two." 

The Man from the Latin Quarter, as he is 
often called, clutched his gun like a club, made 
a mock movement as if to brain the speaker, 
then rested it tenderly and with the greatest 
care against one corner of the fireplace. 

"Sorry, High-Muck, but I couldn't help it. 
I'd have missed your dinner if I had gone 
back to my bungalow for clothes. I've been 
out on the marsh since sunup and got cut off 
by the tide. Down with you, Peter! Let him 
thaw out a little, Herbert; he's worked like a 
beaver all day, and all we got were three plover 

29 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

and a becassine. I left them with Pierre as I 
came in. Didn't see a duck — haven't seen one 
for a week. Wait until I get rid of this," and 
he stripped off his outer jacket and flung it 
at Louis, who caught it with one hand and, 
picking up the tongs, held the garment from 
him until he had deposited it in the far corner 
of the room. 

"Haven't had hold of you, Herbert, since the 
gold medal," the hunter resumed. "Shake!" 
and the two pressed each other's hands. "I 
thought 'The Savage' would win — ripping stufF 
up and down the back, and the muscles of the 
legs, and he stands well. I think it's your high- 
water mark — thought so when I saw it in the 
clay. By Jove! — I'm glad to get here! The 
wind has hauled to the eastward and it's get- 
ting colder every minute." 

"Cold, are you, old man!" condoled Louis. 
"Why don't you look out for your fire, High- 
Muck? Little Brierley's half frozen, he says. 
Hold on! — stay where you are; I'll put on an- 
other log. Of course, you're half frozen! 
When I went by your marsh a little while ago 
the gulls were flying close inshore as if they 
were hunting for a stove. Not a fisherman 
fool enough to dig bait as far as I could see." 
30 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

Brierley nodded assent, loosened his under 
coat of corduroy, searched in an inside pocket 
for a pipe, and drew his chair nearer, his knees 
to the blaze. 

"I don't blame them," he shivered; 
"mighty sensible bait-diggers. The only two 
fools on the beach were Peter and I; we've 
been on a sand spit for five hours in a hole I 
dug at daylight, and it was all we could do to 
keep each other warm — wasn't it, old boy?" 
(Peter, coiled up at his feet, cocked an ear in 
confirmation.) "Where's Marc, Le Blanc, and 
the others — upstairs ? " 

"Not yet," replied Herbert. "Marc expects 
to turn up, so he wired High-Muck, but I'll 
believe it when he gets here. Another case of 
Romeo and Juliet, so Louis says. Le Blanc 
promises to turn up after dinner. Louis, you 
are nearest — get a fresh glass and move that de- 
canter this way, — Brierley is as cold as a frog." 

"No — stay where you are, Louis," cried the 
hunter. "I'll wait until I get something to eat 
— hot soup is what I want, not cognac. I say, 
High-Muck, when are we going to have dinner? 
I'm concave from my chin to my waistband; 
haven't had a crumb since I tumbled out of bed 
this morning in the pitch dark." 

31 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Expect it every minute. Here comes Lea 
now with the soup and Mignon with hot 
plates." 

Louis caught sight of the two women, backed 
himself against the jamb of the fireplace, and 
opened wide his arms. 

" Make way, gentlemen ! " he cried. " Behold 
the lost saint — our Lady of the Sabots! — and 
the adorable Mademoiselle Mignon! I kiss the 
tips of your fingers, mademoiselle. And now 
tell me where that fisher-boy is — that hand- 
some young fellow Gaston I heard about when 
I was last here. What have you done with 
him? Has he drowned himself because you 
wouldn't be called in church, or is he saving 
up his sous to put a new straw thatch on his 
mother's house so there will be room for two 
more?" 

Pretty Mignon blushed scarlet and kept 
straight on to the serving-table without daring 
to answer — Gaston was a tender subject to 
her, almost as tender as Mignon was to Gas- 
ton — but Lea, after depositing the tureen at 
the top of the table, made a little bob of a 
curtsy, first to Herbert and then to Louis 
and Brierley — thanking them for coming, and 
adding, in her quaint Normandy French, that 
32 



THE WOOD FIRE AND ITS FRIENDS 

she would have gone home a month since had 
not the master told her of our coming. 

"And have broken our hearts, you lovely old 
gargoyle!" laughed Louis. "Don't you dare 
leave the Inn. They are getting on very well 
at the church without you. Come, Herbert, 
down with you in the old Florentine. I'll sit 
next so I can keep all three wooden heads in 
order," and he wheeled the chair into place. 

"Now, Lea — the soup!" 



33 



Ill 

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO A 
CERTAIN COLONY OF PENGUINS 

T EMOIS, as was his custom, came in with 
the coffee. He serves it himself, and al- 
ways with the same little ceremony, which, 
while apparently unimportant, marks that in- 
definable, mysterious line which he and his an- 
cestry — innkeepers before him — have invariably 
maintained between those who wait and those 
who are waited upon. First, a small spider- 
legged mahogany table is wheeled up between 
the circle and the fire, on which Lea places a 
silver coffee-pot of Mignon's best; then some 
tiny cups and saucers, and a sugar-dish of odd 
design — they said it belonged to Marie An- 
toinette — is laid beside them. Thereupon Le- 
mois gravely seats himself and the rite begins, 
he talking all the time — one of us and yet aloof 
^much as would a neighbor across a fence who 
makes himself agreeable but who has not been 
given the run of your house. 

To the group's delight, however, he was as 

34 



. A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

much a part of the coterie as if he had taken 
the fifth chair, left vacant for the always late 
Marc, who had not yet put in an appearance, 
and a place we would have insisted upon his 
occupying, despite his intended isolation, but 
for a certain look in the calm eyes and a certain 
dignity of manner which forbade any such en- 
croachments on his reserve. 

To-night he was especially welcome. Thanks 
to his watchful care we had dined well — Pierre 
having outdone himself in a pigeon pie — and 
that quiet, restful contentment which follows a 
good dinner, beside a warm fire and under the 
glow of slow-burning candles, had taken pos- 
session of us. 

"A wonderful pie, Lemois — a sublime, never- 
to-be-forgotten pie!" exclaimed Louis, voicing 
our sentiments. "Every one of those pigeons 
went straight to heaven when they died." 

"Ah! — it pleased you then, Monsieur Louis? 
I will tell Pierre — he will be so happy." 

" Pleased ! " persisted the enthusiastic painter. 
"Why, I can think of no better end — no higher 
ambition — for a well-brought-up pigeon than 
being served hot in one of Pierre's pies. Tell 
him so for me — I am speaking as a pigeon, of 
course." 

35 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"What do you think the pigeon himself would 
have said to Pierre before his neck was wrung?" 
asked Herbert, leaning back in his big chair. 
"Thank you — only one lump, Lemois." 

"By Jove! — ^why didn't I ask the bird? — it 
might have been illuminating — and I speak a 
little pigeon-English, you know. Doubtless he 
would have told me he preferred being riddled 
with shot at a match and crawling away under 
a hedge to die, to being treated as a common 
criminal — the neck-twisting part, I mean. Why 
do you want to know, Herbert ? " 

"Oh, nothing; only I sometimes think — if 
you will forgive me for being serious — that 
there is another side to the whole question; 
though I must also send my thanks to Pierre 
for the pie." 

That one of their old good-natured passages 
at arms was coming became instantly apparent 
— tilts that every one enjoyed, for Herbert 
talked as he modelled — never any fumbling 
about for a word; never any uncertainty nor 
vagueness — always a direct and convincing 
sureness of either opinion or facts, and always 
the exact and precise truth. He would no 
sooner have exaggerated a statement than he 
would have added a hair's-breadth of clay to a 

36 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

muscle. Louis, on the other hand, talked as 
he painted — ^with the same breeze and verve 
and the same wholesome cheer and sanity which 
have made both himself and his brush so be- 
loved. When Herbert, therefore, took up the 
cudgels for the cooked pigeon, none of us were 
surprised to hear the hilarious painter break 
out with : 

" Stop talking such infernal rot, Herbert, and 
move the matches this way. How could there 
be another side? What do you suppose beef 
and mutton were put into the world for except 
to feed the higher animal, man?" 

"But is man higher?" returned Herbert 
quietly, in his low, incisive voice, passing Louis 
the box. "I know I'm the last fellow in the 
world, with my record as a hunter — and I'm 
sometimes ashamed of it — to advance any such 
theory, but as I grow older I see things in a 
different light, and the animal's point of view 
is one of them." 

"Pity you didn't come to that conclusion 
before you plastered your studio with the 
skins of the poor devils you murdered," he 
chuckled, winking at Lemois. 

"That was because I didn't know any bet- 
ter — or, rather, because I didn't think any bet- 

37 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

ter," retorted Herbert. "When we are young, 
we delude ourselves with all sorts of fallacies, 
saying that things have always been as they are 
since the day of Nimrod; but isn't it about 
time to let our sympathies have wider play, and 
to look at the brute's side of the question? 
Take a captive polar bear, for instance. It 
must seem to him to be the height of injustice 
to be hunted down like a man-eating tiger, sold 
into slavery, and condemned to live in a steel 
cage and in a climate that murders by slow 
suffocation. The poor fellow never injured 
anybody; has always lived out of everybody's 
way; preyed on nothing that robbed any man 
of a meal, and was as nearly harmless, un- 
less attacked, as any beast of his size the world 
over. I know a case in point, and often go 
to see him. He didn't tell me his story — his 
keeper did — though he might have done so had 
I understood bear-talk as well as Louis un- 
derstands pigeon-English," and a challenging 
smile played over the speaker's face. 

"You ought to have stepped inside and passed 
the time of day with him. They wouldn't have 
fed him on anything but raw sculptor for a 
month." 

Herbert fanned his fingers toward Louis in 
38 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

good-humored protest, and kept on, his voice 
becoming unusually grave. 

"They wanted, it seems, a polar bear at the 
Zoo, because all zoos have them, and this one 
must keep up with the procession. It would 
be inspiring and educating for the little chil- 
dren on Sunday afternoons — and so the thirty 
pieces of silver were raised. The chase began 
among the icebergs in a steam-launch. The 
father and mother in their soft white over- 
coats — the two baby bears in powder-puff furs — 
were having a frolic on a cake of floating ice 
when the strange craft surprised them. The 
mother bear tucked the babies behind her and 
pulled herself together to defend them with 
her life — and did — until she was bowled over 
by a rifle ball which went crashing through her 
skull. The father bear fought on as long as 
he could, dodging the lasso, encouraging the 
babies to hurry — sweeping them ahead of him 
into the water, swimming behind, urging them 
on, until the three reached the next cake. But 
the churning devil of a steam launch kept after 
them — two armed men in the bow, one be- 
hind with the lariat. Another plunge — only 
one baby now — a staggering lope along the 
edge of the floe, the little tot tumbling, scuf- 

39 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

fling to its feet; crying in terror at being left 
behind — doing the best it could to keep up. 
Then only the gaunt, panic-stricken, shambHng 
father bear — slower and slower — the breath 
almost out of him. Another plunge — a shriek 
of the siren — a twist of the rudder — the lasso 
curls in the air, the launch backs water, the 
line tautens, there is a great swirl of foam 
broken by lumps of rocking ice, and the dull, 
heavy crawl back to the ship begins, the bear 
in tow, his head just above the water. Then 
the tackle is strapped about his girth, the 
'Lively now, my lads!' rings out in the Arctic 
air, and he is hauled up the side and dumped 
half dead on deck, his tongue out, his eyes 
shot with blood. 

"You can see him any day at the Zoo — the 
little children's noses pressed against the iron 
bars of his" cage. They call him 'dear old 
Teddy bear,' and throw him cakes and candies, 
which he sniffs at and turns over with his great 
paw. As for me, I confess that whenever I 
stand before his cage I always wonder what he 
thinks of the two-legged beasts who are re- 
sponsible for it all — his conscience being clear 
and neither crime, injustice, nor treachery being 
charged against him. Yes, there are two sides 
40 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

to this question, although, as Louis has said, 
it might have been just as well to have thought 
about it before. Speak up, Lemois, am I right 
or wrong? You have something on your mind;^ 
I see it in your eyes." 

"It's more likely on his stomach," inter- 
rupted Louis; "the pigeon may have set too 
heavy." 

"You are more than right. Monsieur Her- 
bert," Lemois answered in measured tones, ig- 
noring the painter's aside. He was stirring his 
cup as he spoke, the light of the fire making a 
silhouette of his body from where I sat. " For 
your father bear, as you call him, I have every 
sympathy; but I do not have to go to the 
North Pole to express what we owe to animals. 
I bring the matter to my very, door, and I tell 
you from my heart that if I had my way there 
would never be anything served in my house 
which suffered in the killing — not even a 
pigeon." 

Everybody looked up in astonishment, won- 
dering where the joke came in, but our land- 
lord was gravity itself. "In fact," he went on, 
" I believe the day will come when nothing will 
be killed for food — not even your dear demoi- 
selle de Cherbourg, Monsieur Louis. Adam and 

41 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Eve got on very well without cutlets or broiled 
squab, and yet we must admit they raised a 
goodly race. I, myself, look forward to the 
time when nothing but vegetables and fruit, 
with cheese, milk, and eggs, will be eaten by 
men and women of refinement. When that 
time comes the butcher will go as entirely out 
of fashion as has the witch-burner and, in many 
parts of the world, the hangman." 

"But what are you going to do with Brierley, 
who can't enjoy his morning coffee until he 
has bagged half a dozen ducks on his beloved 
marsh?" cried Louis, tossing the stump of his 
cigar into the fire. 

"But Monsieur Brierley is half converted 
already, my dear Monsieur Louis; he told me 
the last time I was at his bungalow that he 
would never kill another deer. He was before 
his fireplace under the head of a doe at the 
time — one he had shot and had stuffed. Am 
I not right. Monsieur Brierley?" and Lemois 
inclined his head toward the hunter. 

Brierley nodded in assent. 

"Same old game," muttered Louis. "Had 
his fun first." 

"I have been a cook all my life," continued 
the undaunted Lemois, "and half the time 
42 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

train my own chefs in my kitchen, and yet I 
say to you that I could feed my whole chen- 
tele sumptuously without ever spilling a drop 
of blood. I live in that way myself as far as 
I can, and so would you if you had thought 
about it." 

"Skimmed milk and hard-boiled eggs for 
breakfast, I suppose!" roared Louis in derision, 
"with a lettuce sandwich and a cold turnip for 
luncheon." 

"No, you upsidedown man! Cheese souf- 
fles, omelets in a dozen diff"erent ways, stuffed 
peppers, tomatoes fried, stewed, and fricasseed, 
oysters, clams " 

"And crabs and lobsters?" added Louis. 

"Ah! but crabs and lobsters suffer like any 
other thing which has the power to move; what 
I am trying to do is to live so that nothing will 
suffer because of my appetite." 

"And go round looking like a skeleton in a 
doctor's ofl&ce! How could you get these up 
on boiled cabbage?" and he patted Herbert's 
biceps. 

"No, my dear Monsieur Louis," persisted 
Lemois gravely, still refusing to be side-tracked 
by the young painter's onslaughts. "If we 
loved the things we kill for food as Monsieur 

43 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Brierley loves his dog Peter, there would never 
be another Chateaubriand cooked in the world. 
What would you say if I offered you one of that 
dear fellow's ribs for breakfast? It would be 
quite easy — the butcher is only around the cor- 
ner and Pierre would broil it to a turn. But 
that would not do for you gourmets. You 
must have liver or sweetbreads cut from an 
animal you never saw and of which, of course, 
you know nothing. If the poor animal had 
been a playmate of Mignon's — and she once 
had a pet lamb — ^you could no sooner cut its 
throat than you could Peter's." 

Before Louis could again explode, Brierley, 
who, at mention of Peter's name had leaned 
over to stroke the dog's ears, now broke in, a 
dry smile on his face. 

"There's another side of this question which 
you fellows don't seem to see, and which in- 
terests me a lot. You talk about cruelty to 
animals, but I tell you that most of the cruelty 
to-day is served out to the man with the gun. 
The odds are really against him. The birds 
down my way have got so almighty cunning 
that they club together and laugh at us. I 
hear them many a time when Peter and I are 
dragging ourselves home empty-handed. They 

44 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

know too when I start out and when I give up 
and make for cover." 

"Go slow, Brierley; go slow!" 

"Of course they know, Louis!" retorted 
Brierley in mock dejection. "Doesn't a crow 
keep a watch out for the flock? Can you get 
near one of them with a gun unless you are 
lucky enough to shoot the sentry first? You 
can call it instinct if you choose — I call it reason 
— the same kind of mental process that compels 
you to look out for an automobile before you 
cross the street, with your eyes both ways at 
once. When you talk of their helplessness and 
want of common sense, and inability to look 
out for themselves, you had better lie under a 
hedge as I have done, the briars scraping your 
neck, or scrunched down in a duckblind, with 
your feet in ice water, and study these simple- 
minded creatures. Explain this if you can. 
Some years ago, in America, I spent the autumn 
on the Housatonic River. The ducks come in 
from Long Island Sound to feed on the shore 
stuff, and I could sometimes get five — once I 
got eleven — between dawn and sunrise. The 
constant banging away soon made them so shy 
that if I got five in a week I was lucky. On 
the first of the month and for the first time in 

45 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

the State a new law came into force making It 
cost a month's wages for any pot-hunter to kill 
a duck or even have one in his possession. The 
law, as is customary, was duly advertised. Not 
only was it published in the papers but stuck 
up in bar-rooms and county post-offices, and 
at last became common gossip around the feed- 
ing-ground of the ducks. At first they didn't 
believe it, for they still kept out of sight, flying 
high — and few at that. But when they found 
the law was obeyed and that all firing had 
ceased, not a gun being heard on the river, 
they tumbled to the game as quick as did the 
pot-hunters. When the shooting season opened 
the following year, hardly a duck showed up. 
Those that came were evidently stragglers who 
rested for a day on their long flight south; but 
the Long Island Sound ducks — the well-posted 
ducks — stayed away altogether until, with the 
first of the month, the law for their protec- 
tion came into force again. Then, so the old 
farmer, a very truthful man with whom I used 
to put up, wrote me, they came back by thou- 
sands; the shore was black with them." 

"And you really believe it, Brierley?" Louis*^ 
head was shaking in a commiserating way. 

"Of course I believe it, and I can show the 
46 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

farmer's letter to back it," he answered, with 
a wink at me behind his hand; "and so would 
you if you had been humbugged by them as 
many times as I have. Ask Peter — he'll tell 
you the same thing. And I'll tell you some- 
thing else. On the edge of that same village 
was a jumble of shanties inhabited by a lot of 
Italians who had come up from New York to 
work a quarry near by. On Sundays and holi- 
days these fellows went gunning for the small 
birds, especially cedar birds and flickers, hiding 
in the big woods a mile away. After these birds 
had stood it for a while they put their dear little 
innocent heads together and thought it all out. 
Women and children did not shoot, therefore 
the safest place for nesting and skylarking was 
among these very women and children. After 
that the woods were empty; the birds just made 
fools of the pot-hunters and swarmed to the gar- 
dens and yards and village trees. No one had 
ever seen them before in such quantities, and 
— would you believe it? — they never went back 
to the woods again until the Italians had left 
for New York." 

Lemois, having also missed the humor in 
Brierley's tone, rose from his place beside the 
coff'ee-table, leaned over the young writer, and, 

47 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

with a characteristic gesture, patted him on 
the arm, exclaiming: 

"How admirably you have put it, my dear 
Monsieur Brierley; I have to thank you most 
sincerely. Ah! you Americans are always clear 
and to the point. May I add one more word ? 
That which made these birds so cunning 
was the fact that you were out to kill them." 
Here he straightened up, his back to the fire, 
and stood with the light of its blaze tingeing 
his gray beard. "It's a foolish fancy, I know, 
but I would have liked to have lived, if only 
for one day, with the man Adam, just to see 
how he and Madame Eve and the Noah's ark 
family got on before they began quarrelling and 
Cain made a hole in the head of the other mon- 
sieur. I have an idea that the lion and the 
lamb ate out of the same trough, with the birds 
on their backs for company — all the world at 
peace. My Coco rubs his beak against my 
cheek, not because I feed him, but because he 
trusts me; he would, I am sure, bite a piece 
out of Monsieur Louis' because he does not 
trust him — and with reason," and the old man 
smiled good-naturedly. "But why don't they 
all trust us?" 

Herbert, who had also for some reason en- 
48 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

tirely missed Brierley's humor, fumbled for an 
instant with the end of a match he had picked 
from the cloth, and then, tossing it quickly 
from him as if he had at last framed the sen- 
tence he was about to utter, said in a thought- 
ful tone: 

"I have often wondered what the world 
would be like if all fear of every kind was 
abolished — of punishment, of bodily hurt, and 
of pain ? Everything that swims, flies, or walks 
is afraid of something else — ^women of men, 
men of each other. The first thing an infant 
does is to cry out — not from the pain, but from 
fright — ^just as a small dog or the cub of a 
bear hides under its mother's coat before its 
eyes are open. It is the ogre. Fear, that be- 
gins with the milk and ends with the last 
breath in terror over the unknown, and it is 
our fault. Half the children in the world — 
perhaps three-fourths of them — have been 
brought up by fear and not by love." 

"How about the lambasting your father gave 
you, Herbert, when you hooked it from school? 
'Spare the rod and spoil the — ' You know the 
rest of it. Did you deserve it?" 

"Probably I did," laughed Herbert. "But, 
all the same, Louis, that foolish line has done 

49 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

more harm in the world than any line evei 
written. Many a brute of a father — not mine, 
for he did what he thought was right — has 
found excuse in those half-dozen words for his 
temper when he beat his boy." 

"Oh, come, let us get back to dry ground, 
gentlemen," broke in Brierley. "We com- 
menced on birds and we've brought up on 
moral suasion with the help of a birch-rod. 
Nobody has yet answered my argument: 
What about the birds and the way they play 
it on Peter and me ? " and again Brierley winked 
at me. 

"It's because you tricked them first, Brier- 
•ley," returned Herbert in all seriousness and in 
all sincerity. "They got suspicious and out- 
witted you, and they will every time. A beast 
never forgets treachery. I know of a dozen in- 
stances to prove it." 

"Now I think of it, I know of one case, 
too," remarked Louis gravely, in the voice of 
a savant uncovering a matter of great weight; 
"that is, if I may be allowed to tell it in the 
presence of the big Nimrod of the Congo — he 
of a hundred pairs of tusks, to say nothing of 
skins galore." 

Herbert nodded assent and with an air of 
5° 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

surprise leaned forward to listen. That the 
jovial painter had ever met the savage beast 
in any part of the world was news to him, 

A most extraordinary and remarkable in- 
stance, gentlemen, showing both the acumen, 
the mental equipment, and the pure cussed- 
ness, if I may be permitted the expression, of 
the brute beast of the field. The incident, as 
told to me, made a profound impression on my 
early life, and was largely instrumental in my 
abandoning the pursuit and destruction of game 
of that class. I refer to the well-known case of 
the boy who gave the elephant a quid of tobacco 
for a cake, and was buried the following year 
by his relatives when the circus came again to 
his town — he unfortunately having occupied a 
front seat. Yes, you are right, the beast for- 
gives anything but treachery. But go on. 
Professor Herbert; your treatment of this ex- 
tremely novel view of animal life is most exhila- 
rating. I shall, at the next meeting of the 

Academy of Sciences, introduce a " 

Brierley's hand set firmly on Louis' mouth, 
who sputtered out he would be good, would 
have ended the discussion had not Lemois 
moved into an empty chair beside Herbert, and, 
resting his hand on the sculptor's shoulder, ex- 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

claimed in so absorbed a tone as to command 
every one's attention: 

"Please do not stop, Monsieur Herbert, and 
please do not mind this wild man, who has. two 
mouths in his face — one with which he eats and 
the other with which he interrupts. I am very 
much interested. You were speaking of the 
ogre, Fear. Please go on. One of the things 
I want to know is whether it existed in the 
Garden of Eden. Now if you gentlemen will 
all keep still" — here he fixed his eyes on Louis 
— "we may hear something worth listening to." 

Louis threw up both hands in submission, 
begging Lemois not to shoot, and Herbert, 
having made him swear by all that was holy 
not to open either of his mouths until his story 
was told to the end, emptied his glass of Bur- 
gundy and faced the expectant group. 

"We don't need to go back to the Garden of 
Eden to decide the question, Lemois. As to 
who is responsible for the existence of this ogre. 
Fear, I can answer best by telling you what 
happened only four years ago on a German ex- 
pedition to the South Pole. It was told me by 
the commander himself, who had been special- 
ly selected by Emperor WiUiam as the best 
man to take charge. When I met him he was 
52 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

captain of one of the great North Atlantic 
liners — a calm, self-contained man of fifty, 
with a smile that always gave way to a laugh, 
and a sincerity, courage, and capacity that 
made you turn over in your berth for another 
nap no matter how hard it blew. 

"We were in his cabin near the bridge at 
the time, the walls of which were covered with 
photographs of the Antarctic, most of which he 
had taken himself, showing huge icebergs, vast 
stretches of hummock ice, black, clear-etched 
shore lines, and wastes of snow that swept up 
to high mountains, their tops lost in the fog. 
He was the first human being, so he told me, 
to land on that coast. He had left the ship in 
the outside pack and with his first mate and 
one of the scientists had forced a way through 
the floating floes, their object being to make 
the ascent of a range of low rolling mountains 
seen in one of the photographs. This was pure 
white from base to summit except for a dark 
shadow one-third the slope, which he knew 
must be caused by an overhanging ledge with 
possibly a cave beneath. If any explorers had 
ever reached this part of the Antarctic, this 
cave, he knew, would be the place of all others 
in which to search for records and remains. 

S3 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

" He had hardly gone a dozen yards toward it 
when his first mate touched his arm and pointed 
straight ahead. Advancing over the crest of 
the snow came the strangest procession he had 
ever seen. Thirty or more penguins of enor- 
mous size, half as high as a man, were march- 
ing straight toward them in single file, the 
leader, ahead. When within a few feet of them 
the penguins stopped, bunched themselves to- 
gether, looked the invaders over, bending their 
heads in a curious way — walking round and 
round as if to get a better view — and then wad- 
dled back to a ridge a few rods off, where they 
evidently discussed their strange guests. 

"The captain and the first mate, leaving 
the scientist, walked up among them, patted 
their heads, caressed their necks — the captain 
at last slipping his hand under one flipper of 
the largest penguin, the mate taking the other 
— the two conducting the bird slowly and with 
great solemnity and dignity back to the boat, 
its companions following as a matter of course. 
None of them exhibited the slightest fear; did 
not start or crane their heads in suspicion, but 
were just as friendly as so many tame birds 
waiting to be fed. The boat seemed to inter- 
est them as much as the men had done. One 

54 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

by one, or by twos and threes, they came wad- 
dling gravely down to where it lay, examined 
it all over and as gravely waddled back, look- 
ing up into the explorers' faces as if for some 
explanation of the meaning and purpose of the 
strange craft. They had, too, a queer way of 
extending their necks, rubbing their cheeks 
softly against the men's furs, as if it felt good 
to them. The only thing they seemed disap- 
pointed in were the ship's rations — these they 
would not touch. 

"Leaving the whole flock grouped about the 
boat, the party pushed on to the dark shadow 
up the white slope. It was, as he had sup- 
posed, an overhanging cliff, its abrupt edge and 
slant forming a shallow cave protected from 
the glaciers and endless snows. As he ap- 
proached nearer he could make out the whirl- 
ing flight of birds, and when he reached the 
edge he found it inhabited by thousands upon 
thousands of sea fowl — a gray and white species 
common to these latitudes. But there was no 
commotion nor excitement of any kind — no 
screams of alarm or running to cover. On the 
contrary, when the party came to a halt and 
looked up at the strange sight, two birds stopped 
in their flight to perch on -the mate's shoulder, 

55 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

and one hopped toward the captain with a 
movement as if poHtely asking his business. 
He even lifted the young birds from under 
their mother's wings without protest of any 
kind — not even a peck of their beaks— one of 
the older birds really stepped into his hand 
and settled herself as unconcerned as if his 
warm palm was exactly the kind of nest she 
had been waiting for. He could, he told me, 
have carried the whole family away without 
protest of any kind so long as he kept them 
together. 

"The following week he again visited the 
shore. This time he found not only the 
friendly penguins, who met him with even 
more than their former welcome, but a huge 
seal which had sprawled itself out on the rock 
and whose only acknowledgment of their pres- 
ence was a lazy lift of the head followed by a 
sleepy stare. So perfectly undisturbed was he 
by their coming, that both the captain and the 
first mate sat down on his back, the mate re- 
maining long enough to light his pipe. Even 
then the seal moved only far enough to stretch 
himself, as if saying, 'Try that and you will 
find it more comfortable.' 

"On this visit, however, something occurred 
56 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

which, he told me, he should never cease to re- 
gret as long as he lives. That morning as they 
pushed off from the ship, one of the dogs had 
made a clear spring from the deck and had 
landed in the boat. It was rather difl&cult to 
send him back without loss of time, and so he 
put him in charge of the mate, with orders not 
to take his eyes off him and, as a further pre- 
caution, to chain him to the seat when he went 
ashore. So fascinated were the penguins by the 
dog that for some minutes they kept walking 
round and round him, taking in his every 
movement. In some way, when the mate was 
not looking, the dog slipped his chain and dis- 
appeared. Whether he had gone back to the 
vessel or was doing some exploring on his own 
account nobody knew; anyhow, he must be 
found. 

"It then transpired that one of the pen- 
guins had also taken a notion to go on a still 
hunt of its own, and alone. Whether the dog 
followed the penguin, or the penguin the dog, 
he said he never knew; but as soon as both 
were out of sight the dog pounced upon the 
bird and strangled it. They found it flat on 
its back, the black-webbed feet, palms up, as 
in dumb protest, the plump white body glis- 

57 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

tening in the snow. From its throat trickled 
a stream of blood: they had come just in time 
to save any further mutilation. To hide all 
traces of the outrage, the captain and his men 
not only carried the dead penguin and the live 
dog to the boat, but carefully scraped up every 
particle of the stained snow, which was also 
carried to the boat and finally to the ship. 
What he wanted, he told me, was to save his 
face with the birds. He knew that not one of 
them had seen the tragedy, and he was deter- 
mined that none of them should find it out. 
So careful was he that no smell of blood would 
be wafted toward them, that he had the boat 
brought to windward before he embarked the 
load; in this way, too, he could avoid bidding 
both them and the seal good-by. 

"The following spring he again landed on 
the shore. He had completed the survey, and 
the coast lay on their homeward track. There 
were doubters in the crew, who had heard the 
captain's story of the penguins walking arm 
and arm with him, so he landed some of the 
ship's company to convince them by ocular 
demonstration of its truth. But no penguins 
were in sight, nor did any other living thing put 
in an appearance. One of his men — there were 

S8 



A COLONY OF PENGUINS 

six this time — caught a glimpse of a row of 
heads peering at them over a ridge of snow a 
long way off, but that was all. When he 
reached the cave the birds flew out in alarm, 
screaming and circling as if to protect their 
young." 

Herbert paused, moved his cup nearer the 
arm of his chair, and for a moment stirred it 
gently. 

Lemois, whose grave eyes had never wan- 
dered from Herbert, broke the silence. 

"I should have learned their language and 
have stayed on until they did understand," he 
murmured softly. "It wouldn't have taken 
very long." 

"The captain did try, Lemois," returned 
Herbert, "first by signs and gentle approaches, 
and then by keeping perfectly still, to pacify 
them; but it was of no use. They had lost 
all confidence in human kind. The peace of 
the everlasting ages had come to an end. Fear 
had entered into their world!" 



59 



IV 

THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

/|NE of the delights of dressing by our 
open windows at this season is to catch 
the aroma of Mignon's roasting coffee. This 
morning it is particularly delicious. The dry 
smell of the soil that gave it birth is fast 
merging into that marvellous perfume which 
makes it immortal. The psychological mo- 
ment is arriving; in common parlance it is 
just on the "burn" — another turn and the 
fire will have its revenge. But Mignon's vigil 
has never ceased — into the air it goes, the soft 
breeze catching and cooling it, and then there 
pours out, flooding the garden, the flowers, and 
the roofs, its new aroma and with it its new 
Hfe. 

And the memories it calls up — this pungent, 
fragrant, spicy perfume: memories of the cup 
I drank in that old posada outside the gate 
of Valencia and the girl who served it, and 
the matador who stood by the window and 
scowled; memories of my own toy copper 
60 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

cofFee-pot, with its tiny blue cup and saucer 
which Luigi, my gondoHer, brings and pours 
himself; memories of the thimblefuls in shal- 
low china cups hardly bigger than an acorn 
shell, that Yusef, my dragoman, laid beside 
my easel in the patio of the Pigeon Mosque 
in Stamboul, when the priests forbade me to 
paint. 

Yes! — a wonderful aroma this which our 
pretty, joyous Mignon is scattering broadcast 
over the court-yard, hastening every man's 
toilette that he may get down the earlier where 
Lea is waiting for him with the big cups, the 
crescents, the pats of freshly churned butter, 
and the pitcher of milk boiling-hot from 
Pierre's fire. 

Another of the pleasures of the open window 
is being able to hear what goes on in the court- 
yard. To-day the ever-spontaneous and de- 
lightful Louis, as usual, is monopolizing all the 
talk, with Lemois and Mignon for audience, 
he having insisted on the open garden for his 
early cup, which the good Lea has brought, 
her scuffling sabots marking a track across the 
well-raked gravel. The conversation is at long 
range — ^Louis sitting immediately under my 
window and Lemois, within reach of the kitchen 

6i 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

door at the other side of the court, busying 
himself with his larder spread out on a table. 

"Monsieur Lemois! Oh, Monsieur Lemois!" 
Louis called; "will you be good enough to pay 
attention! What about eggs? — can I have a 
couple of soft-boiled ? " 

"Why, of course you can have eggs! Lea, 
tell Pierre to " 

"Yes, I know, but will it endanger the life 
of the chickens inside ? After your sermon last 
night, and Herbert's penguin yarn, I don't 
intend that any living thing shall suffer be- 
cause of my appetite — not if I can help it." 

Lemois shrugged his shoulders in laughter, 
and kept on with his work, painting a still- 
life picture on his table-top — a string of silver 
onions for high lights and a brace of pheasants 
with a background of green turnip-tops for 
darks. To see Lemois spread his marketing 
thus deliberately on his canvas of a kitchen 
table is a lesson in color and composition. 
You get, too, some idea as to why he was able 
to reproduce in real paint the "Bayeux" tap- 
estry on the walls of the "Gallerie" and ar- 
range the Marmouset as he has done. 

My ear next became aware of a certain 
silence in the direction of the coffee-roaster 
62 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

which had ceased its rhythm — the coffee is 
roasted fresh every morning. I glanced out 
and discovered our Mignon standing erect 
beside her roaster with flushed cheeks and 
dancing eyes. Next I caught sight of young 
Gaston, his bronze, weather-beaten face turned 
toward the girl, his eyes roaming around the 
court-yard. In his sunburned hand he clutched 
a letter. He was evidently inquiring of Mignon 
as to whom he should give it. 

"Who's it for?" shouted Louis, who, as 
godfather to Mignon's romance, had also been 
watching the little comedy in delight. "All 
private correspondence read by the cruel par- 
ent! I am the cruel parent — bring it over 
here ! What ! — not for me ? Oh ! — for the High- 
Muck-a-Muck." The shout now came over his 
left shoulder. " Here's a letter for you, High- 
Muck, from Marc, so this piscatorial Romeo 
announces. Shall I send it up?" 

"No — open and read it," I shouted back. 

Louis slit the envelope with his thumb-nail 
and absorbed its contents. 

"Well!— I'll be- No, I won't, but Marc 
ought. What do you think he's been and 
gone and done, the idiot!" 

"Give it up!" 

63 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

" Invited a friend of his — a young — the Mar- 
quise de la Caux — to dine with us to-night. 
Says she's the real thing and the most won- 
derful woman he knows. Doesn't that make 
your hair curl up backward! He's conjing 
down with her in her motor — be here at seven 
precisely. A marquise! Well! — if that doesn't 
take the cake! I'll bet she's Marc's latest 
mash!" 

Herbert put his head out of an adjoining 
window. "What's the matter?" 

"Matter! Why that lunatic Marc is going 
to bring a woman down to dinner — one of those 
fine things from St. Germain. She's got a cha- 
teau above Buezval. Marc stayed there last 
night instead of showing up here." 

"Very glad of it, why not?" called Herbert, 
drawing in his head. 

Lemois, who had heard the entire outbreak, 
nodded to himself as if in assent, looked at 
Gaston for a moment, and, without adding a 
word of any kind, disappeared in the kitchen. 
What he thought of it all nobody knew. 

There was no doubt as to the seriousness of 
the impending catastrophe. Marc, in his en- 
thusiasm, had lost all sense of propriety, and 
was about to introduce among us an element 
64 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

we had hitherto avoided. Indeed, one of the 
enticing comforts at the Inn was its entire free- 
dom from petticoat government of any kind. 
A woman of quality, raised as she had been, 
would mean dress-coats and white ties for din- 
ner and the restraint that comes with the min- 
ghng of the sexes, and we disHked both — that is, 
when on our outings. 

By this time the news had penetrated to 
the other rooms, producing various comments. 
Herbert, with his head again out of the win- 
dow, advanced the opinion that the hospitality 
of madame la marquise had been so overr 
whelming, and her beauty and charm so com- 
pelling, that Marc's only way out was to 
introduce her among us. Louis kept his nose 
in the air. Brierley, from the opposite side of 
the court, indulged in a running fire of good- 
natured criticism in which Marc was described 
as the prize imbecile who needed a keeper. As 
for me, sitting on the window-sill watching the 
by-plays going on below — especially Louis, who 
demanded an immediate answer for Gaston — 
there was nothing left, of course, but a — "Why 
certainly, Louis, any friend of Marc's will be 
most welcome, and say that we dine at seven." 

And yet before the day was over — so subtly 
65 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

does the feminine make its appeal — that de- 
spite our assumed disgust, each and every man 
of us had resolved to do his prettiest to make 
the distinguished lady's visit a happy one. As a 
woman of the world she would, of course, over- 
look the crudities of our toilettes. And then, 
as we soon reasoned to ourselves, why shouldn't 
our bachelor reunions be enlivened, at least for 
once, by a charming woman of twenty-five — 
Marc never bothered himself with any older — 
who would bring with her all the perfume, dash, 
and chic of the upper world and whose toilette 
in contrast with our own dull clothes would be 
all the more entrancing? This, now that we 
thought about it, was really the touch the 
Marmouset needed. 

It was funny to see how everybody set to 
work without a word to his fellow. Herbert 
made a special raid through the garden and 
nipped oflF the choicest October roses — buds 
mostly — as befitted our guest. Louis, suc- 
cumbing to the general expectancy, occupied 
himself in painting the menus on which Wat- 
teau cupids swinging from garlands were most 
pronounced. Brierley, pretending it was for 
himself, spent half the morning tuning up the 
spinet with a bed-key, in case this rarest of 
66 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

women could sing, or should want any one 
else to, while Lemois, with that same dry smile 
which his face always wears when his mind is 
occupied with something that amuses him, or- 
dered Pierre to begin at once the preparation 
of his most famous dish, Poulet Vallee d'Auge, 
spending the rest of the morning in putting a 
final polish on his entire George III coffee ser- 
vice — something he never did except for per- 
sons, as he remarked, of "exceptional quality." 

Not to be outdone in courtesy I unhooked 
the great iron key of the wine-cellar from its 
nail in Pierre's kitchen, and swinging back the 
old door on its rusty hinges, drew from among 
the cobwebs a bottle of Chablis, our heavier 
Burgundies being, of course, too heating for so 
dainty a creature. This I carried in my own 
hands to the Marmouset, preserving its long- 
time horizontal so as not to arouse a grain of 
the sediment of years, tucking it at last into a 
crib of a basket for a short nap, only to be 
again awakened when my lady's glass was ready. 

When the glad hour arrived and we were 
drawn up to receive her — every man in his best 
outfit — best he had — ^with a rosebud in his but- 
ton-hole — and she emerged from the darkness 
and stood in the light of the overhead can- 

(>1 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

dies — long, lank Marc bowing and scraping 
at her side, there escaped from each one of us, 
all but Lemois, a half-smothered groan which 
sounded like a faint wail. 

What we saw was not a paragon of delicate 
beauty, nor a vision of surpassing loveliness, 
but a parallelogram stood up on end, fifty or 
more years of age, one unbroken perpendicular 
line from her shoulders to her feet — or rather 
to a brown velvet, close-fitting skirt that reached 
to her shoe-tops — ^which were stout as a man's 
and apparently as big. About her shoulders 
was a reefing jacket, also of brown velvet, fast- 
ened with big horn buttons; above this came 
a loose cherry-red scarf of finest silk in perfect 
harmony with the brown of the velvet; above 
this again was a head surmounted by a mass 
of fluffy, partly gray hair, parted on one side — 
as Rosa Bonheur wore hers. Then came two 
brilliant agate eyes, two ruddy cheeks, and a 
sunny, happy mouth filled with pearl-white teeth. 

One smile — and it came with the radiance 
of a flashlight — and all misgivings vanished. 
There was no question of her charm, of 
her refinement, or of her birth. Neither was 
there any question as to her thorough knowl- 
edge of the world. 

68 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

"I knew you were all down here for a good 
time," she began in soft, low, musical tones, 
when the introductions were over, "and would 
understand if I came just as I was. I have 
been hunting all day — tramping the fields with 
my dogs — and I would not even stop to rear- 
range my hair. It was so good of you to let 
me come; and I love this room — its atmosphere 
is so well bred, and it is never so charming as 
when the firelight dances about it. Ah, Mon- 
sieur Lemois! I see some new things. Where 
did you get that duck of a sauce-boat? — and 
another Italian mirror! But then there is no 
use trying to keep up with you. My agent 
offered what I thought was threfe times its 
value for that bit of Satsuma, and I nearly 
broke my heart over it — and here it is! You 
really should be locked up as a public nuisance ! " 

We turned instinctively toward Lemois, re- 
membering his queer, dry smile when he re- 
ferred to her coming, but his only reply to her 
comment was a low bow to the woman of rank, 
with the customary commonplace, that all of 
his curios were at her disposal if she would 
permit him to send them to. her, and with this 
left the room. 

"And now where shall I sit?" she bubbled 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

on. "Next to you, I hope, my dear Mon- 
sieur Herbert. You do not know me — never 
heard of me, perhaps — but I know all about 
you and the wonderful things you have ac- 
complished. And you too, Monsieur Louis. I 
remember your first success as I do those of 
most of the young men who have won their 
medals for twenty years back. And you, 
Monsieur Brierley — and — can I say it? — Mon- 
sieur High-Muck" — and she nodded gayly at 
me. "And now you will all please give your 
imagination free rein. Try and remember that 
I am not a hideous old woman in corduroys 
and high boots, but a most delightful and be- 
witching demoiselle; and please remember, too, 
that I can wear a decollete gown if I please, 
only I don't please, and haven't pleased for 
ten years or more." 

Her perfect poise and freedom from all con- 
ventionality put us at once at our ease, making 
us forget she had only been among us a few 
minutes. 

"And how clever you are to have chosen 
this room for these delightful meetings, of which 
Monsieur Marc has told me," she continued, 
her eyes wandering again over the several ob- 
jects, while her personality completely domi- 

70 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

nated everything. "Nobody but Lemois would 
have brought them all together. What a ge- 
nius he is! Think of his putting that wooden 
angel where its golden crown can become an 
aureole in the candle-light: he has done that 
since my last visit. And that other one — 
really the rarest thing he owns — in the dark 
corner by the fireplace. May I tell you 
about it before he comes back? It is of the 
fifteenth century, and is called the 'Bella 
Nigra' — the Black Virgin. Look at it, all of 
you, while I hold the candle. You see the 
face is black, the legend running, *I am beau- 
tiful though black because the sun has looked 
at me so long.' You notice, too, that she 
has neither arms nor legs — a symbol of no- 
bility, showing she need neither work nor walk, 
and the triple crown means that she is Queen 
of Heaven, Earth, and Sea. Why he pokes 
her in a dark corner I cannot imagine, except 
that it is just like him to do the queerest 
things — and say them too. And yet, he is 
such a dear — and so funny! You cannot think 
what funny things he does and says until you 
watch him as I have. Why is it, Monsieur 
Brierley, fhat you have never put him into one 
of your books — ^you who write such charming 

71 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

stories of our coast ? Only this summer some- 
thing occurred which I laugh over every time 
I think of it. The Cabourg races were on 
and the court-yard outside was packed with 
people who had come for luncheon before the 
Prix Lagrange was run. They were making a 
good deal of noise — a thing the old gentleman 
hates, especially from loudly dressed women. 
I was at the next table, sheltered from the 
others, and was enjoying the curious spectacle 
— such people always interest me — ^when I no- 
ticed Monsieur Lemois rubbing his hands to- 
gether, talking to himself, his eyes fixed on 
the group. I knew one of his storms was 
brewing, and was wondering what would hap- 
pen, when I saw him start forward as another 
uproarious laugh escaped one of the most 
boisterous. 

"'Mademoiselle,' he said in his softest and 
most courteous tone, hat in hand, bowing first 
to her and then to her male companions; 'mad- 
emoiselle, I love to hear you laugh; I built 
this place for laughter, but when you laughed 
so very loud a moment ago my flowers were so 
ashamed they hung their heads,' and then he 
kept on bowing, his hat still in his hand, his 
face calm, his manner scrupulously polite. No- 

72 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

body was offended. They seemed to think it was 
some kind of a compHment; the rebuked woman 
even turned her head toward the big hydrangeas 
as if trying to find out how they really felt 
about it. Oh ! — he is too delicious for words." 

And so it went on until before the dinner 
was over she had captured every man in the 
room — both by what she said and the way she 
said it — her eyes flashing like a revolving 
light, now dim, now brilliant with the thoughts 
behind them, her white teeth gleaming as she 
talked. Marc seemed beside himself with pride 
and happiness. "Never was there such a 
woman," he was pouring into Herbert's ear; 
"and you should see her pictures and her sta- 
bles and her gun-room. Really the most ex- 
traordinary creature I have ever known! Does 
just as she pleases — a tramp one day and a 
duchess the next. And you should watch her 
at the head of her table in her chateau — then 
you will know what a real 'Grande Dame' is." 

While the others were crowding about her, 
Marc eager to anticipate her every wish in the 
way of cushions, footstools, and the like, I went 
to find Lemois, who was just outside, his hands 
laden with a tray of cordials. 

"You know her then?" 
73 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Oh, for years," he whispered back. "I 
did not tell you, for I wanted to see your sur- 
prise and surrender. It is always the same 
story with her. She does not live here ex- 
cept for a month or so in the autumn, when 
the small villa on the bluff above Buezval — 
two miles from here — is opened; a little box 
of a place filled with costly bric-a-brac. Her 
great chateau — the one in which she really 
lives — is on an estate of some thousands of 
acres near Rouen, and is stocked with big game 
— boar and deer. The marquis — and a great 
gentleman he was — died some twenty years 
ago. Madame paints, carves ivories, binds 
books, shoots, fishes, speaks five languages, 
has lived all over the world and knows every- 
body worth knowing. No one in her youth 
was more beautiful, but the figure has gone, 
as you see — and it is such a pity, for it was 
superb; only the eyes and the teeth are left — 
and the smile. That was always her greatest 
charm, and still is — except her charities, which 
never cease." 

Her musical voice was still vibrating through 
the room as I re-entered. 

"No, I don't agree with you. Monsieur Her- 
bert," she was saying. "It is shameful that 

74 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

we do not keep closer to the usages and re- 
quirements of the old regime. In my time a 
woman would have excited comment who did 
not wear her finest gown and her choicest 
jewels in so select a company as this; and 
often very extraordinary things happened when 
any one defied the mandate. I remember one 
very queer instance which I wish I could tell 
you about — and it resulted in all sorts of dread- 
ful complications. I became so adept a fibber 
in consequence that I wasn't able to speak the 
truth for months afterward — and all because 
this most charming girl wouldn't wear a low 
gown at one of our dinners." 

Herbert beat the air with his hand. "Keep 
still, everybody — madame la marquise is going 
to tell us a story." 

"Madame la marquise is going to do noth- 
ing of the kind. She has enough sins of her 
own to answer for without betraying those of 
this poor girl." 

"Hold up your hands and swear secrecy, 
every one of you!" cried Louis. 

"But who will absolve me from breaking the 
commandment? You will never have any re- 
spect for me again — ^you remember the rule — 
all Hars shall have their portion — don't you?" 

75 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"If madame will permit me," said Lemois 
with a low bow, "I will be her father-confessor, 
for I alone of all this group know how good she 
really is." 

"Very well, I take you at your word, Fra 
Lemois, and to prove how good you are, you 
shall send me the Satsuma with your compli- 
ments, and pick from my collection anything 
that pleases you. But you must first let me 
have a cigarette. Wait" — she twisted back 
her arm and drew a gold case from the side 
pocket of her jacket — "yes, I have one of my 
own — one I rolled myself, and I cure my own 
tobacco too, if you please. No! no more Bur- 
gundy" (she had declined my carefully selected 
Chablis and had drank the heavier wine with 
the rest of us). "That Romanee Conti I 
know, and it generally gets into my head, 
and I don't like anything in my head except 
what I put there myself. What did you want 
me to do ? Oh, yes, tell you that story of my 
youth. 

"Well, one day my dear husband received a 
letter from an English officer, a dear friend 
of his with whom he had had the closest rela- 
tions when they were both stationed in Borneo. 
This letter told us that his daughter, whom, 

76 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

as we knew, had been captured by the Dyaks 
when she was a child of eight, had been found 
some three years before by a scouting party 
and returned to the EngHsh agent at the 
principal seaport, the name of which I forget. 
Since that time she had been living with a 
relative, who had sent her to school. She had 
now completed her education, the letter went 
on to say, and was on her way back to Eng- 
land to join him, he being an invalided officer 
on half-pay. Before reaching him he wanted 
her to see something of the world, particularly 
of French life, and knew of no one with whom 
he would be more willing to trust her than 
ourselves. She was just grown — in her eigh- 
teenth year — and, although she had passed 
seven years of her life among a wild tribe, was 
still an English girl of prepossessing appearance. 
"Well, she came — a beautifully formed, 
graceful creature, with flashing black eyes, a 
clear skin, and with a certain barbaric litheness 
when she moved that always reminded me of a 
panther, it was so measured, and had such 
meaning in it. She brought some expensive 
clothes, but no decollete dresses of any kind, 
which surprised me, and when I offered to lend' 
her my own — ^we were of about the same size — 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

she refused politely but firmly, which surprised 
me all the more, and went right on wearing her 
high-necked gowns, which, while good in them- 
selves — for her people were not poor — ^were not 
exactly the kind of toilettes my husband and 
my guests had been accustomed to — certainly 
not at dinners of twenty. 

"At every other function she was superb, 
and for each one had the proper outfit and of 
the best make. She rode well, danced well, 
sang like a bird, could shoot and hunt with 
any of us, and, with the exception of this curi- 
ous whim — for her form was faultless — was 
one of the most delightful creatures who ever 
stayed with us — and we had had, as you 
may suppose, a good many. The subjects she 
avoided were her captivity and the personnel 
of those with whom she had lived. When 
pressed she would answer that she had told 
the story so often she was tired of it; had 
banished it from her mind and wished every- 
body else would. 

"Then the expected happened. Indeed I 
had begun to wonder why it had not happened 
before. A young Frenchman, the only son of 
one of our oldest famihes, a man of birth and 
fortune, fell madly in love with her. The 

78 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

mother was up in arms, and so was the father. 
She was without title, and, so far as they knew, 
without fortune in her own right; was Enghsh, 
and the match could not and should not take 
place. 

"How the girl felt about it we could not 
find out. Sometimes she would see him alone, 
generally in the dusk of the evening on the 
lawn, but though she was English, and we had 
given the full limit of her freedom, she always 
kept within sight of the veranda. At other 
times she refused to see him altogether, send- 
ing word she was ill, or engaged, or had friends, 
all of which I found extraordinary. This went 
on until matters reached a crisis. She knew 
she must either send him about his business or 
succumb: this was her problem. His problem 
was to win her whether or no; if not here, 
then in England, where he would follow her; 
and he took no pains to conceal it. His persist- 
ence was met by a firm refusal, and finally by 
a command to leave her alone. The dismissal 
was given one night after dinner when they 
were together for a few miiiutes in the library, 
after which, so my maid told me, she went to 
her room and threw herself on her bed in an 
agony of tears. < 

79 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"But there is nothing for sheer obstinacy- 
like a Frenchman in love. Indeed he. was too 
far gone to beHeve a word she said or take no 
for an answer, and as my grounds were next to 
his mother's, and the two families most inti- 
mate, he still kept up his visits to the house, 
where, I must say, he was always welcome, 
for my husband and I liked him extremely, 
and he deserved it. His mother, objecting to 
the marriage, wanted to keep him away. She 
insisted — all this I heard afterward — that the 
girl was half savage and looked and moved like 
one; that she had doubtless been brought up 
among a lawless tribe who robbed every one 
around them; that there was no knowing what 
such a girl had done and would not do, and 
that she would rather see her son lying dead 
at her feet — the usual motherly exaggeration 
— than see him her victim. This brought him 
at last to his senses, for he came to me one day 
and wanted me to tell him what I knew of her 
antecedents as well as the story of her captivity 
and life with the savages. This was a difficult 
situation to face, and I at first refused to dis- 
cuss her private afi^airs. Then I knew any 
mystery would only make him the more crazy, 
and so I told him what I knew, omitting the 
80 



THE AERIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

more intimate details. Strange to say, French- 
man-like, it only maddened him the more — so 
much so that he again waylaid her and asked 
her some questions which made her blaze like 
coals of fire, and again the poor girl went to 
bed in a flood of tears. 

"Then the most puzzling and inexplicable 
thing happened. I had a very deep topaz of 
which I was passionately fond — one given me 
by my dear husband shortly after we were mar- 
ried. I generally kept it in my small jewel 
case, to which only my maid and I had the key. 
This night when I opened it the jewel was gone. 
My maid said she remembered distinctly my 
putting it, together with the chain, in the box, 
for my guest was with me at the time and had 
begged me to wear it because of its rich color, 
which she always said matched my eyes. At 
first I said nothing to any one — not even my 
husband — and waited; then I watched my 
maid; then my butler, about whom I did not 
know much, and who was in love with the 
maid, and might have tempted her to steal it. 
And, last of all — ^why I could not tell, and can- 
not to this day, except for that peculiar pah- 
therlike movement about my guest — I watched 
the girl herself. But nothing came of it. 

8l 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Then I began to talk. I told my husband; 
I told the young man's mother, my intimate 
friend, who told her son, she accusing the girl, of 
course, without a scintilla of proof; I told my 
butler, my maid — I told everybody who could 
in any way help to advertise my loss and the 
reward I was willing to pay for its recovery. 
Still nothing resulted and the week passed with- 
out a trace of the jewel or the thief. 

"One morning just after luncheon, when I 
was alone in my little boudoir and my husband 
and the young man were having their coffee 
and cigarettes on the veranda outside, the girl 
walked in, made sure that no one was within 
hearing, and held out her hand. In the palm 
was my lost topaz. 

"'Here is your jewel,' she said calmly; 'I 
stole it, and now I have brought it back.' 

"'You!' I gasped. 'Why?' 

"'To disgust him and make him hate me so 
that he will never see me again. I love him 
too much to give myself to him. In my mad- 
ness I thought of this.' 

'"And you want him to know it!' I cried 
out. I could hardly get my breath, the shock 
was so great. 

'"Yes— A^r^.'— NOW!' She stepped to the 
82 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

door. 'Monsieur,' she called, *I have some- 
thing to tell you. I have just brought back 
her jewel — I stole it! Now come, madame, 
to my room and I will tell you the rest ! ' 

"I followed her upstairs, leaving the horror- 
stricken young man dazed and speechless. She 
shut the door, locked it, and faced me. 

"'I have lied to both of you, madame. I 
did not steal your jewel; nobody stole it. I 
found it a few minutes ago under the edge of 
the rug where it had rolled; you dropped it in 
my room the night you wore it. In my agony 
to find some way out I seized on this. It 
came to me in a flash and I ran downstairs 
clutching it in my hand, knowing I would be 
lost if I hesitated a moment. It is over now. 
He will never see me again!' 

"I stood half paralyzed at the situation; she 
erect before me, her eyes blazing, her figure 
stretched to the utmost, like an animal in pain. 

"'And you deliberately told him you were 
a thief!' I at last managed to stammer out. 
'Why?' 

'"Because it was the only way to escape — 
it was the only way out. I never want him 
to think of me in any other light — I want to 
be dead to him forever! Nothing else would 

83 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

have done; I should have yielded, for I could 
no longer master my love for him. Look!' 

"She was fumbling at her dress, loosening 
the top buttons close under her chin; then she 
ripped it clear, exposing her neck and back. 

"'This is what was done to me when I was 
a child!' 

"I leaned forward to see the closer. The 
poor child was one mass of hideous tattoo 
from her throat to her stays! 

"'Now you know the whole story,' she 
sobbed, her eyes streaming tears; 'my heart 
is broken but I am satisfied. I could have 
stood anything but his loathing.' 

"With this she fastened her dress and walked 
slowly out of the room, her head down, her 
whole figure one of abject misery." 

Madame leaned forward, picked up her gob- 
let of water, and remarking that walking in the 
wind always made her thirsty, drained its 
contents. Then she turned her head to hide 
her tears. 

"A most extraordinary story, madame. Did 
the young fellow ever speak of the theft?" 
asked Herbert, the first of her listeners to 
speak. 

"No," she answered slowly, in the effort to 
84 



THE AERIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

regain her composure, "he loved her too much 
to hear anything against her. He knew she 
had stolen it, for he had heard it from her own 
Hps." 

"And you never tried to clear her character?" 

"How could L? It was her secret, not mine. 
To divulge it would have led to her other and 
more terrible secret, and that I was pledged to 
keep. She is dead, poor girl, or I would not 
have told you now." 

"And what did you do, may I ask?" in- 
quired Brierley. 

"Nothing, except tell fibs. After she had 
gone the following morning I excused her to 
him, of course, on every ground that I could 
think of. I argued that she had a peculiar 
nature; that owing to her captivity she had per- 
haps lost that fine sense of what was her own 
and what was another's; that she had many 
splendid qualities; that she had only yielded to 
an impulse, just as a Bedouin does who steals 
an Arab horse and who, on second thought, 
returns it. That I had forgiven her, and had 
told her so, and as proof of it had tried, with- 
out avail, to make her keep the topaz. Only 
my husband knew the truth. 'Let it stay as 
it is, my dear,' he said to me; 'that girl has 

85 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

more knowledge of human nature than I cred- 
ited her with. Once that young lover of hers 
had learned the cruel truth he wouldn't have 
lived with her another hour.' " 

"I think I should have told him," remarked 
Louis slowly; the story seemed to have strangely 
moved him. "If he really loved her he'd have 
worn green spectacles and taken her as she was 
— I would. Bad business, this separating lovers." 

"No, you wouldn't, Louis," remarked Her- 
bert, "if you'd ever seen her neck. I know 
something of that tattoo, although mine was 
voluntary, and only covered a part of my arm. 
Madame did just right. There are times when 
one must tell anything but the truth." 

Everybody looked at the speaker in astonish- 
ment. Of all men in the world he kept closest 
to the exact hair-line; indeed, one of Herbert's 
peculiarities, as I have said, was his always 
understating rather than overstating a fact. 

"Yes," he continued, "the only way out is 
to 'lie like a gentleman,' as the saying is, and 
be done with it. I've been through it myself 
and know. Your story, madame, has brought 
it all back to me." 

"It's about a girl, of course," remarked Louis, 
flashing a smile around the circle, "and your 
86 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

best girl, of course. Have a drop of cognac, 
old man," and he filled Herbert's tiny glass. 
"It may help you tell the whole truth before 
you get through." 

"No," returned Herbert calmly, pushing the 
cognac from him, a peculiar tenderness in his 
voice; "not my best girl, Louis, but a gray- 
haired woman of sixty — one I shall never 
forget." • 

Madame laid her hand quickly on Herbert's 
arm; she had caught the note in his voice. 

"Oh! I'm so glad!" she said. "I love sto- 
ries of old women; I always have. Please go 
on." 

"If I could have made her young again, 
madame, you would perhaps have liked my 
story better." 

"Why? Is it very sad?" 

"Yes and no. It is not, I must say, ex- 
actly an after-dinner story, and but that it 
illustrates precisely how difiicult it is some- 
times to speak the truth, I would not tell it 
at all. Shall I go on?" 

"Yes, please do," she pleaded, a tremor now 
in her own voice. It was astonishing how sim- 
ple and girlish she could be when her sympa- 
thies were aroused. 

87 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"My gray-haired woman had an only son, 
a man but a few years younger than myself, 
a member of my own party, who had died 
some miles from our camp at Bangala, and 
it accordingly devolved upon me not only to 
notify his peoplo of his death, but to forward 
to them the few trinkets and things he had 
left behind. As I was so soon to return to 
London I wrote his people that I would bring 
them with me. 

"He was a fine young fellow, cool-headed, 
afraid of nothing, and was a great help to me 
and very popular with every one in the camp. 
Having been sent out by the company to 
which I belonged, as were many others dur- 
ing the first years of our stay on the Congo, 
he had already mastered both the language 
and the ways of the natives. When a pow- 
wow was to be held I always sent him to con- 
duct it if I could not go myself. I did so, too, 
when he had to teach the natives a lesson — 
lessons they needed and -never forgot, for he 
was as plucky as he was politic. 

"I knew nothing of his people except that 
he was a Belgian whose mother, Madame 
Brion, occupied a villa outside of Brussels, 
where she lived with a married daughter. 

88 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

"On presenting my card I was shown into 
a small library where the young woman re- 
ceived me with tender cordiality, and, after 
closing the door so that we might not be over- 
heard, she gave me an outline of the ordeal 
I was about to go through. With her eyes 
brimming tears she told me how her mother 
had only allowed her son to leave home be- 
cause of the pressure brought to bear upon 
her by his uncle, who was interested in the 
company; how she daily, almost hourly, 
blamed herself for his death; how, during the 
years of his absence, she had lived on his let- 
ters, and when mine came, telling her of his 
end, she had sat dazed and paralyzed for 
hours, the open page in her lap — no word es- 
caping her — no tears — only the dull pain of a 
grief which seemed to freeze the blood in her 
veins. Since that time she had counted the 
days to my coming, that she might hear the 
details of his last illness and suffering. 

"You can imagine how I felt. I have never 
been able to face a woman when she is broken 
down with grief, and but that she was expect- 
ing me every minute, and had set her heart on 
my coming, I think I should have been cow- 
ardly enough to have left the house. 

89 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"When the servant returned, I was con- 
ducted up the broad staircase and into a small 
room hung with wonderful embroideries and 
pictures and filled with flowers. In one cor- 
ner on an easel was Brion's portrait in the 
uniform of an officer, while all about were 
other portraits — some taken when he was a 
child, others as a boy — a kind of sanctuary, 
really, in which the mother worshipped this 
one idol of her life." 

Herbert stopped, drew the tiny glass of 
cognac toward him, sipped its contents slowly, 
the tenderness of tone increasing as he went on : 

"She greeted me simply and kindly, and led 
me to a seat on the sofa beside her, where she 
thanked me for the trouble I had taken, her 
soft blue eyes fixed on mine, her gentle, high- 
bred features illumined with her gratitude, her 
silver-gray hair forming an aureole in the light 
of the window behind her, as she poured out 
her heart. Then followed question after ques- 
tion; she wanting every incident, every word 
he had uttered; what his nursing had been — 
all the things a mother would want to know. 
Altogether it was the severest ordeal I had been 
through since I left home — and I have had some 
trying ones. 

90 



THE AERIVAL OF A lADY OF QUALITY 

"For three hours I sat there, giving her mi- 
nute accounts of his illness, his partial recovery, 
his relapse; what remedies I had used; how he 
failed after the fourth day; how his delirium 
had set in, and how at the last he had passed 
peacefully away. Next I described the funeral, 
giving a succinct account of the preparations; 
how we buried him on a little hill near a spring, 
putting a fence around the grave to keep any 
one from walking over it. Then came up the 
question of a small head-stone. This she in- 
sisted she would order cut at once and sent out 
to me — or perhaps one could be made ready 
so that I might take it with me. All this I 
promised, of course, even to taking it with me 
were there time, which, after all, I was able 
to do, for my steamer was delayed. And so I 
left her, her hands on my shoulders, her eyes 
fixed on mine in gratitude for all I had done for 
her dead son." 

"Oh! — the poor, dear lady!" cried madame 
la marquise, greatly moved, her hands tight 
clasped together. "Yes, I believe you — nothing 
in all your experience could have been as 
painful ! ' 

Brierley raised his head and looked at Her- 
bert: 

91 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Rather a tight place, old man, awful tight 
place," and his voice trembled. "But where 
does the lie come in? You told her the truth, 
after all." 

"Told her the truth! I thought you under- 
stood. Why I lied straight through! There 
was no grave — there never had been! Her son 
and his three black carriers had been trapped 
by cannibals and eaten." 

Madame started from her chair and clutched 
Herbert's hand. 

"Oh! — how terrible! No! you could not 
have told her! — I would never have liked you 
again if you had told her. Oh! I am so glad 
you didn't!" 

"There was nothing else to do, madame," 
said Herbert thoughtfully, his eyes gazing into 
space as if the recital had again brought the 
scene before him. 

"Pray God she never found out!" said the 
marquise under her breath. 

"That has always been my consolation, ma- 
dame. So far as I know she never did find 
out. She is dead now." 

"And I wish we had never found out either!" 
groaned Louis. "Why in the world do you 
want to make goose-flesh crawl all over a fel- 

92 



THE ARRIVAL OF A LADY OF QUALITY 

low! An awful, frightful story. I say, Her- 
bert, if you've got any more horrors keep 'em 
for another night. I move we have a rest. 
Drag out that spinet, Brierley, and give us 
some music." 

"No, please don't!" cried the marquise. 
"Tell us another. I wish this one of Mon- 
sieur Herbert's was in print, so that I could 
read it over and over. Think how banal is 
our fiction; how we are forever digging in the 
same dry ground, turning up the same trivial- 
ities — affairs of the heart, domestic difficulties 
— thin, tawdry romances of olden times, all the 
characters masquerading in modern thought — 
all false and stupid. Oh! how sick I am of it 
all! But this epic of Monsieur Herbert means 
the clash of races, the meeting of two civiliza- 
tions, the world turning back, as it were, to 
measure swords with that from which it sprung. 
And think, too, how rare it is to meet a man 
who in his own life has lived them both — the 
savage and the civilized. So please, Monsieur 
Herbert, tell us another — something about the 
savage himself. You know so many things and 
you are so human." 

"He doesn't open his lips, madame, until 
I get some fresh air!" cried Louis. "Throw 

93 



THE AR.M-CHAm AT THE IXN 

back that door, Lemois, and let these hobgob- 
lins out! No more African horrors of any 
kind! Ladies and gentlemen, you will now 
hear the distinguished spinetist, Herr Brier- 
ley, of Pont du Sable, play one of his soul-stir- 
ring melodies! Up with you, Brierley, and 
take the taste out of our mouths ! " 



94 



IN WHICH THE DIFFERENCE BE- 
TWEEN A CANNIBAL AND A FREE- 
BOOTER IS CLEARLY SET FORTH 

''T^O-NIGHT the circle around the table wel- 
corned the belated Le Blanc, bringing with 
him his friend, The Architect, who had designed 
some of the best villas on the coast, and whose 
fad when he was not bending over his drawing- 
board was writing plays. Marc, to every one's 
regret, did not come. After returning with 
madame to her villa the night of her visit, he 
had, according to Le Blanc, been lost to the 
world. 

Dinner over and the cigarettes lighted, the 
men pushed back their chairs; Louis spreading 
himself on the sofa or great lounge; Brierley in 
a chair by the fire, with Peter cuddled up in 
his arms, and the others where they would be 
the most comfortable; Lemois, as usual, at the 
coffee-table. 

The talk, as was to be expected, still revolved 
around the extraordinary woman who had so 

95 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

charmed us the night before; Le Blanc expres- 
sing his profound regret at not having been 
present, adding that he would rather listen to 
her talk than to that of any other woman in 
Europe, and I had just finished giving him a 
resume of her story about the tattooed girl and 
her sufferings, when Brierley, who is peculiarly 
sympathetic, let the dog shp to the floor, and 
rising to his feet broke out in a tirade against 
all savage tribes from Dyaks to cannibals, clos- 
ing his outburst with the hope that the next 
fifty years would see them all exterminated. 
Soon the table had taken sides. The Architect, 
who had lived in Nevada and the far West, de- 
fending the noble red man so cruelly debauched 
by the earlier settlers; Le Blanc siding with 
Brierley, while Lemois and I watched the dis- 
cussion, Louis, from his sofa, putting in his oar 
whenever he thought he could jostle the boat, 
grewsome discussions not being to his liking. 

Herbert, who, dinner over, had been leaning 
back in his chair, the glow of the firelight touch- 
ing both his own and the two carved heads 
above him, and who, up to this time, had taken 
no part in the talk — Herbert, not the heads, 
suddenly straightened up, threw away his cig- 
arette, and rested his hands on the table. 

96 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

"I have not been among the savage tribes 
in lower Borneo," he said, addressing The 
Architect; "neither do I know the red Indian 
as the Americans or their grandfathers may 
have known him. But I do know the canni- 
bal" — here he looked straight at Le Blanc — 
"and he is not as black as he is painted. In 
fact, the white man is often ten times blacker 
in the same surroundings." 

"Not when they roasted your Belgian 
friend?" cried Louis, with some anger. 

"Not even then. There were two sides to 
that question." 

"The brown and the underdone, I suppose," 
remarked Louis sotto voce. 

"No, the human." 

"But you don't excuse the devils, do you?" 
broke in Le Blanc. "Their cruelties are in- 
credible. A friend of mine once met a man in 
Zanzibar who told him he had seen a group of 
slaves, mostly young girls, who, after being 
fattened up, were tied together and marched 
from one of the villages to the other that the 
buyers might select and mark upon their bodies 
the particular cuts they wanted." 

"I haven't a doubt of it. It's all true," re- 
plied Herbert. "I once saw the same thing 

97 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

myself when I was helpless to prevent it, as I 
was in hiding at the time and dared not expose 
myself. Yet I recognized even then that the 
savage was only following out the traditions of 
centuries, with no one to teach him any bet- 
ter. We ourselves have savage tastes that are 
never criticised; to do so would be considered 
mawkish and sentimental. We feel, for in- 
stance, no regret when we wring the neck of 
a pigeon — that is, we didn't," Herbert added 
with a dry smile, "until Lemois advanced his 
theories of 'mercy' the other night. We still 
feed our chickens in coops, stuff our geese to 
enlarge their livers, fatten our hogs until they 
can barely stagger, and, after parading them 
around the market-places, kill and eat them 
just as the African does his human product. 
Even Lemois, with equal nonchalance, hacks 
up his lobsters while they are alive or plunges 
them into boiling water — he wouldn't dare 
serve them to us in any other way. The only 
difference is that we persuade ourselves that our 
pigs and poultry are ignorant of what is going 
to happen to them, while the captured African 
begins to suffer the moment he is pounced upon 
by his captors." 

"And you mean to tell me you don't blame 
98 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

these wretches!" burst out Le Blanc. "I'd 
burn 'em aUve!" 

"Yes, I am quite sure you would — that 
is the usual civilized, twentieth-century way, a 
continuation of the eye-for-an-eye dogma, but 
it isn't always efficacious, and it is seldom just. 
The savage has his good side; he can really 
teach some of us morals and manners, though 
you may not believe it. Please don't explode 
again — ^not now; wait until I get through. 
And I go even farther, for my experience teaches 
me that the savage never does anything which 
he himself thinks to be wrong. I say this be- 
cause I have been among them for a good many 
years, speak their dialects, and have had, per- 
haps, a better opportunity of studying them 
than most travellers. And these evidences of a 
better nature can be found, let me tell you, not 
only among the tribes in what is known as 
'White Man's Africa,' opened up by the ex- 
plorers, but in the more distant parts — out of 
the beaten track — often where no white man 
has ever stepped — none at least before me. 
Even among the cannibal tribes I have often 
been staggered at discovering traits which were 
as mysterious as they were amazing — deep hu- 
man notes of the heart which put the white 

99 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

man to shame. These traits are all the more 
extraordinary because they are found in a race 
who for centuries have been steeped in super- 
stitution with its attendant cruelty, and who 
are considered incapable even of love because 
they sell their womeni 

"You, Le Blanc, naturally break out and 
want to burn them alive. Lemois, more hu- 
mane, as he always is, would exercise more 
patience if he could see anything to build upon. 
You are both wrong. Indeed, between the 
educated white man freed from all restraint 
and turned loose in a savage wilderness, and 
the uneducated savage I would have more 
hope of the cannibal than the freebooter, and I 
say this because the older I grow the more I am 
convinced that with a great majority of men, 
public opinion, and public opinion only, keeps 
them straight, and that when they are far from 
these restraints they often stoop to a lower 
level than the savage, unless some form of re- 
ligion controls their actions. To make this 
clear I will tell you two stories. 

"My first is about a young fellow, a gradu- 
ate of one of the first universities of Europe. I 
am not going to preach, nor throw any blame. 
Some of us in our twenties might have done 

lOO 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

what that white man did. I am only trying 
to prove my statement that the cannibal in 
his cruelties is only following out the instincts 
and traditions of his race, which have existed 
for centuries, while the white man goes back 
on every one of his. I wish to prove to you 
if I can that there is more in the heart of a 
savage than most of us realize — more to build 
upon, as Lemois puts it. 

"Some years ago I met, on the Upper Congo, 
a young fellow named Goringe, of about twenty- 
four or five, who had a contract with the com- 
pany for providing carriers to be sent to the 
coast for the supplies to be brought back and 
delivered to the several camps, mine among the 
others. He, like many an adventurer drawn to 
that Eldorado of adventure, was a man of more 
than ordinary culture, a brilliant talker, and 
of very great executive ability. It was his 
business to visit the different villages, buy, 
barter, or steal able-bodied men for so much a 
month, and rush them in gangs to the coast 
under charge of an escort. On their return 
the company paid them and him so much a head. 
There were others besides Goringe, of course, 
engaged in the same business, but none of them 
attained his results, as I had learned from time 

lOI 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

to time from those who had come across his 
caravans in their marches through the jungle. 
"One morning a runner came into my camp 
with a message from Goringe, telling me that 
he intended passing within a mile or so of 
where I was; that he was pressed for time or 
would do himself the honor of caUing upon 
me, and that he would deem it a great favor 
if I would meet him at a certain crossing where 
he meant to rest during the heat of the day. I, 
of course, sent him word that I should be on 
hand. I hadn't seen him for some years — few 
other white men, for that matter — and I wanted 
to learn for myself the secret of his marvellous 
success. When in London he had worn cor- 
rect evening clothes, a decoration in his button- 
hole, and was a frequenter of the best and most 
exclusive clubs — rather a poor training, one 
would suppose, for the successful life he had 
of late been leading in the jungle — and it was 
successful so far as the profits of the home 
company were concerned. While their other 
agents would hire ten men — or twenty — ^in a 
long march of months, gathering up former 
carriers out of work, some of whom had served 
Stanley in his time, Goringe would get a hun- 
dred or more of fresh recruits, all able-bodied 
1 02 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

savages capable of carrying a load of sixty- 
five pounds no matter what the heat or how 
rough the going. 

"I arrived at the crossing first and waited — 
waited an hour, perhaps two — before his van- 
guard put in an appearance. Then, to use one 
of Louis' expressions, I 'sat up and began to 
take notice.' I had seen a good many bar- 
baric turnouts in my time — one in India when 
I was the guest of a maharaja, who received 
me at the foot of a steep hill flanked on either 
side by a double row of elephants in gorgeous 
trappings, with armed men in still more gor- 
geous costumes fiUing the howdahs; another in 
Ceylon, and another in southern Spain at 
Easter time — but Goringe's march was the 
most unique and the most startling spectacle 
I had ever laid my eyes on, so much so that I 
hid myself in a mass of underbrush and let the 
last man pass me before I made myself known. 

"The vanguard was composed of some 
twenty naked men, black as tar, of course, 
and armed with spears and rawhide shields. 
These were the fighters, cleaning the way for 
my lord, the white man. These were followed 
by a dozen others carrying light articles: the 
great man's india-rubber bath-tub, his guns, 
103 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

ammunition, medicine-chest, tobacco, matches, 
and toilette articles — with such portions of his 
wardrobe as he might choose to enjoy. Sepa- 
rated from the contaminating touch of those in 
front by a space of some twenty feet and by 
an equal distance from those behind, came Go- 
ringe, walking alone, like a potentate of old. 
As he passed within a few yards of where I lay 
concealed I had ample opportunity to study 
every detail of his personality and make-up. 
I was not quite sure that it was he; then I got 
his smile and the peculiar debonair lift of his 
head. Except that he was fifty pounds heavier, 
he was the man with whom I had dined so 
often in London. 

"On his head was a pith helmet that had 
once been white, round which was wound a 
yard or more of bright-red calico. A dozen 
strings of gaudy beads bound his throat and 
half covered his bare chest. After that there 
was nothing but his naked skin — back and 
front, as far down as his waist, from which 
hung a frock of blue denim falling to his knees — 
then more bare skin, and then his feet wrapped 
in goat-skins. In his hand he carried a staff 
which he swung from side to side as he walked 
with lordly stride. 

104 



A CANNIBAL AND A FEEEBOOTER 

"His harem followed: thirty girls in single 
file, dressed in the prevailing fashion of the 
day — a petticoat of plantain leaves and a string 
of beads. Each of them carried a gaudy paper 
umbrella like those sold at home for sixpence. 
Some of the girls were slim and tall, some fat; 
but all were young and all bore themselves with 
an air of calm distinction, as if conscious of 
their alliance with a superior race. Bringing 
up the rear was a long line of carriers loaded 
down with tents, provisions, and other camp 
equipage. 

"When it had all passed I stepped quickly 
through the forest, got abreast of my lord the 
white man, and shouted : 
Goringe ! ' 

"He turned suddenly, lifted the edge of his 
helmet, threw his staff to one of his men, and 
came quickly toward me. 

"'By the Eternal, but I'm glad to see you! 
I was afraid you were going back on me! It 
was awfully decent in you to come. You 
didn't mind my sending for you, did you? 
I've got to make the next village by sundown, 
and then I'm going up into the Hill Country, 
and may not be this way again for months — 
perhaps never. How well you look! What do 
you think of my turnout ? ' 
105 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"I told him in reply, that it was rather re- 
markable — about as uncivilized as anything I 
had ever seen — and was on the point of asking 
some uncomfortable questions when, noting my 
disapproval, he switched off by explaining that 
it was the only way he could make a penny, 
and again turned the conversation by exclaim- 
ing abruptly: 

"'Saw my wives, didn't you? — every one of 
them the daughter of a chief. You see, I buy 
the girl, and so get even with her father, am 
made High Pan-Jam with the red button and 
feather, or next of kin to the chief by blood- 
letting — anything they want. I'm scarred all 
up now mixing my precious ancestral fluid with 
that of these blacklegs, and am first cousin to 
half the cutthroats on the river. Next I start 
on the carriers, pick 'em out myself, and send 
'em down to the agent. The home company 
is getting ugly, so I hear, and wonder why they 
owe me so much for the carriers I've sent 
them — pretty near six hundred pounds ster- 
ling, now. They think there is something 
crooked about it, but I'm keeping it up. I'm 
going down when the row is over and present 
my bill, and they've got to pay it or I'll know 
the reason why. Now we'll have tifiin.' 

'T watched his women crowd about him. 
io6 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

One spread a blanket for his royal highness 
to sit on; two or more busied themselves get- 
ting the food together; one, parasol in hand, 
planted herself behind him to shield his pre- 
cious head from the few sunbeams that fil- 
tered through the overhanging leaves, fanning 
him vigorously all the while. 

"With the serving of the meal and the un- 
corking of a bottle in which he kept what he 
called his 'private stock,' he gave me further 
details of his methods with the natives. When 
a chief was at war with another tribe, for in- 
stance, he would move into the first village he 
came to, spread his own tent and those of his 
wives, post his retainers, and then despatch one 
of his men to the other combatant, command- 
ing a powwow the next morning. Everybody 
would come — everybody would talk, including 
himself, for he spoke Kinkongo and Bangala 
perfectly. Then when he had patched up their 
difficulties, he would distribute presents, get 
everybody drunk on palm wine, and would 
move on next day with a contribution of car- 
riers from both tribes, adding with a wink, 
'And the trick works every time.'" 

Herbert paused for a moment and his lips 
curled. 

107 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Now there's a specimen white man for you! 
To have expressed my disgust of his methods 
in the way I would have Hked to do — and I 
can be pretty ugly at times — would, under the 
circumstances, have been impossible, although 
there was no question in my mind of his cruelty 
nor of his sublime selfishness. The world was 
his oyster and he opened it at his leisure. He 
knew as well as I did what would become of the 
women when he was through with them — that 
they would either be sold into slavery or eaten 
— and he knew, too, how many of those poor 
devils of carriers would go to their death, for 
the mortality among them is fearful — and yet 
none of it ever made the slightest impression 
on him. Now I could excuse that sort of thing 
in Tippoo Tib, whom I knew very well. He 
was a slave-trader and the most cruel rufl&an 
that was ever let loose on the natives; but 
this man was an Anglo-Saxon, a graduate of a 
university, speaking French and German flu- 
ently, with a good mother, and sisters, and 
friends; a man whom you could no doubt find 
to-night perfectly dressed and heartily wel- 
comed in a London club, or in the foyer of 
some theatre in Paris, for his father has since 
died and he has come into his property. And 
io8 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

yet the environment and the absence of pub- 
lic opinion had reduced him to something worse 
than a savage, and so I say again, one can ex- 
cuse a cannibal whose traditions and customs 
have known no change for centuries, but you 
cannot excuse a freebooter who goes back on 
every drop of decent blood in his veins." 

Before any one could reply The Architect 
was on his feet waving his napkin. " By Jove ! " 
he cried, "what a personality! Wouldn't he 
be a hit in comic opera! And think what 
could be done with the scenery; and that pro- 
cession of parasols, with snakes hanging down 
from the branches, and monkeys skipping 
around among the leaves! Robinson Crusoe 
wouldn't be in it — ^why, it would take the town 
by storm! Girls in black stockinette and 
bangles, savages, spears, palms, elephant tusks, 
Goringe in a helmet and goat-skin shoes! I'll 
tell Michel Carre about it the first time I see 
him." 

"And every one of Goringe's girls a beauti- 
ful seductive houri," chimed in Louis with a 
wink at Le Blanc. "You seem to have slurred 
over all the details of this part of the pano- 
rama, Herbert." 

"Oh, ravishingly beautiful, Louis! Half of 
109 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

them were greased from head to foot with palm- 
oil, and smeared with powdered camwood that 
changed them to a deep mahogany; all had 
their wool twisted into knobs and pigtails, and 
most of them wore pieces of wood, big as the 
handle of a table knife, skewered through their 
upper lips. Oh!— a most adorable lot of 
houris." 

"All the better," vociferated The Architect. 
"Be stunning under the spotlights. Tell me 
more about him. I may write the libretto 
myself and get Livadi to do the music. It's a 
wonderful find! Did you ever see Goringe 
again?" 

"No, but I kept track of him. The Belgian 
home company went back on their contract, 
and refused to pay him just as he feared they 
would; they claimed he didn't and couldn't 
have supplied that number of carriers — the 
sort of defence a corporation always makes 
when they want to get out of a bad bargain. 
This decided him. He made a bee-line for the 
coast, sailed by the first steamer, brought suit, 
tried it himself, won his case, got his money 
and a new contract; took the first train for 
Monte Carlo, lost every penny he had in a 
night; went back to Brussels, got a second con- 

IIO 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

tract, sailed the same week for the Congo, and 
when I left Bangala for home had another 
caravan touring the country — bigger than the 
first — fitted out with the best that money could 
buy " 

"Including his wives, of course," suggested 
Louis. 

"Yes, but not the lot he had left behind," 
added Herbert slowly, a frown settling on his 
brow. "They had long since been wiped out 
of existence." 

The Architect pounded the table until the 
glasses rattled. "Superb! Magnificent! That 
finishes the libretto! Carre shan't have it; 
I'll write it myself! But tell me please, if " 

Lemois opened his fingers deprecatingly, his 
gaze fixed good-naturedly on the speaker. 

"You will pardon me, my dear friend, but 
Monsieur Herbert is only half through. He is 
not writing a play; he is introducing us to a 
higher standard of morals and perhaps of man- 
ners. Besides, if you listen you may get a 
fourth act and a climax which will be better 
than what you have. He has promised to con- 
vince Monsieur Le Blanc, who has not yet said 
a word, that the savage should not be burnt 
alive, and to convince me that there is some- 
III 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

thing in that terrible blackamoor worthy of my 
admiration, even if he does dine on his fellow 
men. We have yet to hear Monsieur Herbert's 
second story." 

"All right, Lemois, but I doubt if it will help 
our distinguished guest here to complete his 
scenario; but here goes: 

"When I was chief of Bangala Station, cir- 
cumstances made it necessary for me to make 
an expedition into the Aruwimi District, in- 
habited by a tribe now known as the Waluheli — 
cannibals and typical savages so far as morals 
and habits were concerned. These people, as I 
afterward learned, are possessed of great phys- 
ical strength and are constantly on the war- 
path, trading among each other between times 
in slaves, ivory, and native iron ore. They 
live in huts made of grass stalks and plaited 
palm-leaves. Manioc is about the only food. 
This, of course, the women till. In fact, that 
which protects her from being sold as food is 
often her value as a worker, for one of their 
beliefs is that women have no souls and no 
future state. 

"I took with me five carriers and some fif- 
teen fighting men and struck due east. It was 
the customary outfit, each man carrying sixty- 

112 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

five pounds of baggage, including tent, guns, 
ammunition, etc. The Aruwimi District, we 
had heard, was rich in plantains, as well as 
game, and we needed both, and the fighting 
men served for protection in case we were at- 
tacked, and as food carriers if we were not. 

"The first day's march brought us to a small 
river, a branch of the larger tributaries of the 
Upper Congo, which we crossed. Then fol- 
lowed a three days' march which led us to a 
hilly country where the villages were few and 
far between, and although the natives we met 
on the trail were most friendly — indeed some 
of their men had helped make up my gangs, 
two of them joining my escort — no food was 
to be had, and so I was obliged to push on 
until I struck a stretch that looked as if the 
plantains and manioc could be raised. Still 
further on I discovered traces of antelope and 
zebra and some elephants' tracks. Although 
the villages we passed were deserted, the char- 
acter of the country proved that at some time 
in the past both plantains and a sort of yam 
had been raised in abundance, which led me 
to believe we could get what we wanted. 

"In this new country, too, we met a new 
kind of native, diflFerent from those to whom I 
113 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

had been accustomed, who, on discovering us, 
crouched behind trees and bunches of tangled 
vines, brandishing their spears and shields, but 
making no direct assault. Coming suddenly 
upon eight or ten warriors in fording a small 
brook, I walked boldly in among them, shout- 
ing that we were friendly and not enemies. 
They listened without moving and in a mo- 
ment more my men had cut off their retreat 
and had surrounded them. Then I discovered 
that they spoke one of the dialects I knew — 
the Mabunga — and after that we had no 
trouble. Indeed, they directed us to their vil- 
lage, where that night my bed was spread in 
their largest hut. Next day I started barter- 
ing and soon had all the provisions we could 
carry, the currency, as usual, being glass beads 
and a few feet of brass and copper wire, with 
some yards of calico for the women and the 
chief. I should then have turned in another 
direction, but early the next morning, as I was 
getting ready to leave, one of my men brought 
news of an elephant who the night before had 
been seen destroying their crops. The temp- 
tation was too strong — no, don't laugh, Louis, 
I have reformed of late — and I dropped every- 
thing and started for the game. Meat for our 
114 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

camp, and especially for the friendly village, 
would be a godsend, and, taking five men, I 
was soon on his track. They are strong-legged 
and quick movers, these elephants, and a few 
hours' start makes it difficult for a white man 
to catch up with them. All that day I fol- 
lowed him, never getting near him, although 
the spoor, stripped saplings, and vines showed 
that he was but a few miles ahead. At night- 
fall I gave him up, sent my men back, and, to 
avoid fording a deep stream, made a short de- 
tour to the right. The sun had set and dark- 
ness had begun to fall. And it comes all at 
once and almost without warning in these parts. 
"My men being out of reach, I pushed ahead 
until I struck a narrow path twisting in and 
out of the heavier trees and less tangled un- 
derbrush. Here I came upon an open place 
with signs of cultivation and caught sight of 
another unexpected village, the first I had run 
across in that day's march. This one, on 
nearer approach, proved to be a collection of 
small huts straggling along the edge of what 
at last became a road or street. Squatting in 
front of these rude dwellings sat the inhabi- 
tants staring at me in wonder — the first white 
man they had ever seen. 

115 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"It was a curious sight and an uncanny 
one — these silent black savages watching my 
advance. One man had thrown his arm around 
his wife, as if to protect her; she crouching 
close to him — both naked as the day they 
were born. I used the pair in a group I ex- 
hibited two or three years ago which bore the 
title, 'They Have Eyes and See Not' — you may 
perhaps remember it. I wanted to express the 
instinctive recognition of the savage for what 
he feels dimly is to conquer him, and I tried as 
well to give something of the pathos of the sur- 
render. 

"There was no movement as I approached — 
no greeting — no placing of yams, coarse corn, 
and pieces of dried game and dried meat on 
the ground at their feet, especially the flesh of 
animals, in preparing which they are experts, a 
whole carcass being sometimes so dried. They 
only stared wonderstruck — absorbed in my ap- 
pearance. Now and then, as I passed rapidly 
along so as to again reach my men before ab- 
solute darkness set in, I would stop and make 
the sign of peace. This they returned, showing 
me that their customs, and I hoped their lan- 
guage, was not unlike what I understood. 

"When I was abreast of the middle of the 
Ii6 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

village a sudden desire for a pipe — that solace 
of the lone man — took possession of me and I 
began fumbling about my clothes for my match- 
box. Then I remembered that I had given it 
to one of my carriers to start our morning 
blaze. I now began to scan the dwellings I 
passed for some signs of a fire. My eye finally 
caught between the supports of the last hut on 
the line the glow of a heap of embers, and hud- 
dled beside it the dim outline of two figures — 
that of a man and a woman. 

"For a moment I hesitated. I was alone, 
out of the hearing of my followers, and dark- 
ness was rapidly falling. As long as I kept on 
a straight course I was doubtless safe; if I 
halted or, worse yet, if I entered his hut with- 
out invitation, the result might be different. 
Then the picture began to take hold of me: 
the rude primeval home; the warmth and 
cheer of the fire; the cuddling of man and wife 
close to the embers, the same the world over 
whether cannibal or Christian, Involuntarily 
my thoughts went back to my own fireside, 
thousands of miles away: those I loved were 
sitting beside the glowing coals that gave it 
life, a curl of smoke drifting toward the near 
hills. 

117 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"I turned sharply, walked straight into the 
hut, and, making the sign of peace, asked in 
Mabunga for a light for my pipe. 

"The man started — I had completely sur- 
prised him — sprang to his feet, and, looking at 
me in amazement, returned my greeting in the 
same tongue, touching his forehead in peace- 
ful submission as he spoke. The woman made 
neither salutation nor gesture. I leaned over 
to pick up a coal, and, to steady myself, laid 
my hand on the woman's shoulder. 

"It was cold and hard as wood! 

"I bent closer and scanned her face. 

"She was a dried mummy! 

"The man's gaze never wavered. 

"Then, he said slowly: 'She was my 
woman — I loved her, and I could not bury 
her!' 



I'" 



Herbert's denouement had come as an as- 
tounding surprise. He looked round at the 
circle of faces, his eyes resting on Le Blanc's 
and Lemois' as if expecting some reply. 

The older man roused himself first. 

"Your story. Monsieur Herbert," he said 
with a certain quaver in his voice, "has opened 
up such a wide field that I no longer think 
ii8 



A CANNIBAL AND A FREEBOOTER 

of the moral, although I see clearly what you 
intended to prove. When your climax came" 
• — and his eyes kindled — "I felt as if I were 
standing on some newly discovered cliff of 
modern thought, below which rolled a thick 
cloud of superstition rent suddenly by a flash 
of human sympathy and love. Below and be- 
yond stretched immeasurable distances fading 
into the mists of the ages. You will excuse 
the way I put it — I do not mean to be fanciful 
nor pedantic — but it does not seem that I can 
express my meaning in any other way. Mon 
Dieu, what a lot of cheap dancing jacks 
we are! We dig and sell our product; we 
plead to save a criminal; we toil with our 
hands and scheme with our heads, and when 
it is all done it is to get a higher place in the 
little world we ourselves make. Once in a 
while there comes a flash of lightning like this 
from on high and the cloud is rent in twain 
and we look through and are ashamed. Thank 
you again. Monsieur Herbert. You have wi- 
dened my skull— cracked it open an inch at 
least, and my heart not a little. Your savage 
should be canonized!" 
w And he left the room. 



119 



VI 



PROVING THAT THE COURSE OF TRUE 
LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

IV/TIGNON'S coiFee-roaster was silent this 
morning. By listening intently a faint 
rhythm could be heard coming from beyond the 
kitchen door, telling that she was alive and 
about her work, but the garden was not the 
scene of her operations. Rain had fallen stead- 
ily all night and was still at it, driving every 
one within doors. Furthermore, somewhere ofF 
in the North Sea the wind had suddenly tum- 
bled out of bed and was raising the very Old 
Harry up and down the coast. Reports had 
come in of a bad wreck along shore, and much 
anxiety was felt for the fishing fleet. 

To brave such a downpour seemed absurd, 
and so we passed the morning as best we could. 
I made a sketch in color of the Marmouset; 
Herbert and Brierley disposed themselves about 
the room reading, smoking, or criticising my 
work; Louis upstairs was stretching a can- 
vas — nothing appealed to him like a storm — 
1 20 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

and he had determined, as soon as the deluge 
let up — no moderate downpour ever bothers 
him — to paint the surf dashing against the 
earth cliffs that frowned above the angry sea. 
Lemois did not appear until near noon, his ex- 
cuse being that he had lain awake half the 
night thinking of Herbert's story of the Afri- 
can's dried wife, and had only dropped off to 
sleep when the fury of the storm awoke him. 

As luncheon was about to be served, Le Blanc 
arrived in his car one mass of mud, the glass 
window in the rear of the cover smashed by 
the wind. He brought news of a serious state 
of things along the coast. The sea in its rage, 
so his story ran, was biting huge mouthfuls 
out of the bluffs, the yellow blood of the dis- 
solving clay staining the water for half a mile 
out. One of the card-board, jig-saw, gimcrack 
villas edging the cliff had already slid into the 
boiling surf, and the rest of them would fol- 
low if the wind held for another hour. 

We drew him to the fire, helped him off 
with his drenched coat, each of us becoming 
more and more thoughtful as we listened to 
his description. Lea and Mignon, unheeded, 
came in bearing the advance dishes — some 
oysters and crisp celery. They were soon fol- 

121 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

lowed by Lemois, who, instead of helping, as 
was his invariable custom, in the arrangement 
of the table, walked to the hearth and stood 
gazing into the coals. He, too, was thoughtful, 
and after a moment asked if we would permit 
Mignon to replace him at the coflFee-table that 
evening, as he must be off for a few hours, and 
possibly all night, explaining in answer to our 
questions that the storm had already reached 
the danger line, and he felt that as ex-mayor 
of the village he should be within reach if any 
calamity overtook the people and fishermen in 
and around Buezval. We all, of course, offered 
to go with him — Louis being especially eager — 
but Lemois insisted that we had better finish 
our meal, promising to send for us if we were 
really needed. 

His departure only intensified our apprehen- 
sions as to the gravity of the situation. What 
had seemed to us at first picturesque, then 
threatening, assumed alarming proportions. 
The gale too, during luncheon, had gone on in- 
creasing. Great puffs of smoke belched from 
the throat of the chimney into the room, and 
we heard the thrash of the rain and shrill wails 
of the burglarious wind rising and falling as 
it fingered the cracks and crevices of the old 
122 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

building. Now and then an earthen tile would 
be ripped from the roof and sent crashing into 
the court. "By Jove! — ^just hear that wind!" 
followed by an expectant silence, interrupted 
almost every remark. 

As the fury of the storm increased we no- 
ticed that a certain nervous anxiety had taken 
possession of our pretty Mignon, who, at one 
crash louder than the others, so far forgot her- 
self as to go to the window, trying to peer out 
between the bowed shutters, her baffled eyes 
seeking Lea's for some comforting assurance, 
the older woman, without ceasing her minis- 
trations to our needs, patting the girl's shoulder 
in passing. 

Suddenly the great outside door of the court, 
which had been closed to break the force of the 
wind, gave way with a bang; then came the 
muffled cry of a man in distress, and Gaston 
burst in, clad in oilskins, his south-wester tied 
under his chin, rivers of rain pouring from his 
hat and overalls. Mignon gave a half-smoth- 
ered sob of rehef and would have sunk to the 
floor at his feet had not Lea caught her. 

The young fisherman staggered back against 
the edge of the fire-jamb, his hand on his chest. 

"It's madame la marquise!" he gasped. He 
123 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

had run the two miles from Buezval and had 
barely breath enough to reach the Inn. "I 
came for Monsieur Lemois! There isn't a mo- 
ment to lose — the sea is now up to the porch. 
She is lost if you wait!" 

"Madame lost!" we cried in unison. 

"No," he panted, "the house. She is not 
there. Find Monsieur Lemois! — all of you 
must come!" 

Le Blanc was out of his chair before Gaston 
had completed his sentence. 

"Get your coats and meet me at the ga- 
rage!" he shouted. "I'll run the motor out; 
we'll be there in ten minutes! My coat too. 
Lea!" and he slammed the door behind him. 

The old woman clattered upstairs into the 
several rooms for our ulsters and water-proofs, 
but Mignon sat still, too overjoyed to move or 
speak. Gaston, she knew, was going out into 
the rain again, but he was safe on the land 
now and not on a fishing craft, fighting his 
way into the harbor, as she had feared all day. 
The young fellow looked at her from under the 
brim of his dripping south-wester, but there 
was no word of recognition, though he had 
come as much to tell her he was safe as to 
summon us to madame's villa. I caught her 
124 



TRXJE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

lifted eyes and the furtive glance of gratitude 
she gave him. 

It was a wild dash up the coast; Le Blanc 
driving, Herbert handling the siren, the others 
packed in, crouching close, Gaston holding to 
the foot-board, where he roared in our ears the 
details of the impending calamity, his breath 
having now come back to him. The cliff, he 
explained, that supported the tennis court of 
an adjoining villa had given way, taking with 
it a slice of madame's lawn, leaving only the 
gravel walk under her library windows. The 
surf, goaded by the thrash of the wind, was, 
when he left, cutting great gashes in the toe 
of the newly exposed slope. Another hour's 
work like the last — and it was not high water 
until four o'clock — ^would send the cottage heels 
over head into the sea. Madame was in Paris, 
and the caretakers — an old fisherman and his 
wife — too old to work — were panic-stricken, 
calling piteously for Monsieur Lemois, whom 
their mistress trusted most of all the people 
in and about the village. 

The end of the shore road had now been 
reached, our siren blowing continuously. With 
a twist of the wheel we swerved from the main 

125 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

highway, climbed a short hill, and chugged 
along an overhanging road flanked by a row 
of Httle black lumps of cottages in silhouette 
against the white fury of the smashing surf. 
The third of these, so Gaston said, was ma- 
dame's. Thank God it was still square-sided 
and the chimneys still upright. We were in 
time anyhow! 

More than once have I helped in a fire or 
lent a welcoming hand to a shipwrecked crew 
breasting an ugly sea in a water-logged boat; 
but to hold on to a cottage sliding into the sea 
— as one would to the heels of a would-be 
suicide determined to dash himself to pieces 
on the sidewalk below — ^was a new experience 
to me. 

Not so to Herbert — that is, you would never 
have supposed it from the way he took hold of 
things. In less time than. I tell it, he had 
swung wide the rear door of madame's villa, sta- 
tioned Brierley, Le Blanc, and myself at the side 
entrances to keep out poachers, formed a line 
of fishermen (whom Gaston knew) to pass out 
bric-a-brac, pictures, and rare furniture to the 
garage at the end of the lawn — the only safe 
place under cover — and, with Louis to help, 
was packing it with household goods. 
126 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

While this was going on, although we did not 
know it, Lemois was half-way down the slope 
watching the encroaching sea; calculating the 
number of minutes which the villa had to live; 
watching, too, the slow crumbling of the cliff. 
He knew something of these earth slides — or 
thought he did — and, catching sight of our 
rescue party, struggled up to warn us. 

But Herbert had not furled a mainsail off 
Cape Horn for nothing. He also knew the sea 
and what its savage force could do. He, too, 
had swept his eyes over the crumbling slopes, 
noted the wind, looked at his watch, and, 
bounding back, had given orders to go ahead. 
There was possibly an hour — certainly thirty 
minutes — before the house, caught by the tide 
at high water, would sag, tilt, and pitch head- 
long, like a bird-cage dropped from a window- 
sill, and no power on earth could save it. Until 
then the work of rescuing madame's belongings 
must go on. 

Louis' enormous strength now came into 
play: first it was an inlaid cabinet, mounted 
in bronze, with heavy glass doors. This, 
stripped of its curios, which he crammed into 
his pockets, was picked up bodily and carried 
without a break to the garage, a hundred yards 
127 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

in the rear; then followed bronzes that had 
taken two men to place on their pedestals; 
pictures in heavy frames; a harp muffled in a 
water-proof cover, which became a toy in his 
hands; even the piano went out on the run 
and was slid along the porch and down the 
steps, and, with the aid of Gaston and an- 
other fisherman, whirled under cover. 

The fight now was against time, Lemois in- 
dicating the most valuable articles. Soon the 
first floor was entirely cleared except for some 
heavy pieces of furniture, and a dash was 
made upstairs for madame's bedroom and 
boudoir, filled with choice miniatures, larger 
portraits, and the little things she loved and 
lived with. The pillows were now torn from 
the beds, emptied, and every conceivable kind 
of small precious thing — silver-topped toilet 
articles, an ivory crucifix, bits of Dresden 
china — all the odds and ends a woman of qual- 
ity, taste, and refinement uses and must have 
— were dumped one after another into the 
pillow-sacks and carried carefully to shelter. 
Then followed the books and rare manu- 
scripts. 

Herbert, who, between every trip to the 
garage or to the crowd of willing workers out- 
128 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

side, had paused to watch the sea, now bawled 
up the staircase ordering every man out. The 
last moment of safety had arrived. Lemois, 
intent on rescuing a particular portfolio of 
etchings, either would not or did not hear. 
Gaston, more alert, and who had been help- 
ing him to carry down an armful of the more 
precious books, sprang past Herbert, despite his 
cry, and dashed back up the steps, shouting 
as he raced on that Lemois was still upstairs. 
Herbert made a plunge to follow when Louis 
threw his arms around him. 

"No, for God's sake! She's going! Out of 
this! — quick! Jump, Herbert, or you'll be 
killed!" 

As the two men cleared the doorway there 
came a racking, splitting, tearing noise; a 
doubling under of the posts of the front porch; 
a hail of broken glass and clouds of blinding 
dust from squares of plaster as the ceilings col- 
lapsed; then the whole structure canted — slid 
ten feet and stopped, the brick chimneys 
smashing their full length into the crumbling 
mass. When the dust and flying spHnters set- 
tled, Herbert and Louis were standing on firm 
ground within a foot only of the upheaved 
edge of raw earth. Staring them in the face, 
129 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

like the upturned feet of a prostrate man, were 
the bottom timbers of the cottage. 

Somewhere inside the chaotic mass lay Le- 
mois and Gaston! 

A cry of horror went up from the crowd, 
made more intense by the shriek of a fisher- 
woman — Gaston's mother — ^who just before the 
crash came had seen her son's head at the 
library window, and who was now fighting her 
way to where Herbert was keeping back the 
mob until he could make up his mind what 
was best to do. Her breathless news decided 
him. 

"Louis!" he shouted, his voice ringing above 
the roar of the sea, "pick out two men — good 
ones — and follow me!" 

The four worked their way to a careened 
window now flattened within a foot of the 
ground, crawled over the sill, and Herbert 
calling out to Lemois and Gaston all the while, 
crept under a tangle of twisted beams, flooring, 
and furniture, until they reached what was 
once the farther wall of the library. 

Under an overturned sofa, pinned down but 
unhurt, white with dust and broken plaster and 
almost unrecognizable, they found our land- 
lord. Gaston lay a few feet away, the breath 
130 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

knocked out of him, an ugly wound in his head. 
Lemois had answered their call, but Gaston 
had given no sign. 

Herbert braced himself and in the dim light 
looked about him. The saving of lives was now 
a question of judgment, requiring that same 
instantaneous making up of his mind always 
necessary when his own life had depended upon 
the exact placing of a rifle-ball in the skull of a 
charging elephant. There was not a second to 
lose. Another slash of the sea and the whole 
mass might go headlong down the slope, and 
yet to lift the wrong timber in an effort to 
free Lemois might topple the entire heap, as 
picking out the wrong match-stick topples a 
pile of jackstraws. 

He ran his eye over the shattered room; or- 
dered the two fishermen to leave the wrecked 
building; selected, after a moment's pause, a 
heavy joist lying across the sofa; stood by 
while Louis put his shoulder under its edge, his 
enormous strength bearing the full brunt of 
the weight; waited until it swayed loose, and 
then, grabbing Lemois firmly by the coat- 
collar, dragged him clear and set him on his 
feet. 

Gaston came next, limp and apparently 
131 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

dead — the blood trickling from his head and 
spattering his rescuers. 

The crowd shouted in unison as they caught 
sight of Lemois' gray head, all the whiter from 
the grime of powdered plaster. Then came an- 
other and louder shout, followed by another 
piercing shriek from Gaston's mother as her 
boy's sagging, insensible body was brought 
clear of the wreck. None of his bones were 
broken, none that Lemois could find; some- 
thing had struck the boy— some falling weight — 
perhaps a bust from one of the bookcases over 
his head. That was the last the lad had known 
until he found his mother kneeling beside him 
in the rain and mud, where the cold wind and 
rain revived him. 

But our work was not yet over. The mis- 
cellaneous assortment of precious things housed 
in the garage must be rearranged before night- 
fall and protected against breakage and leak- 
age. Watchmen must be selected and made 
comfortable in the garage, a telegram de- 
spatched to madame at her apartment in 
Paris, with details of the catastrophe and sal- 
vage, and another to her estate at Rouen, 
and, more important still, Gaston must be car- 
ried home, put to bed, and a doctor sent for. 
132 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

This done, Herbert and the rest of us could go 
back to the inn in Le Blanc's motor. 

The first load brought Herbert, Brierley, 
and myself, Le Blanc driving: Lemois had 
remained with Gaston. Mignon, with staring, 
inquiring eyes, her apron over her head to 
protect her from the wet, met us at the outer 
gate, but not a word was said by any of us 
about Gaston, a crack on a fisherman's head 
not being a serious affair — and then again, this 
one was as tough as a rudder-post and as full 
of spring as an oar — and then, more important 
still, the poor child with her hungry, tear- 
stained eyes had had trouble enough for one 
day, as we all knew. Later when Lea and I 
were alone, I told her the story, describing 
Gaston's pluck and bravery and his risking his 
life to save Lemois — the dear old woman clasp- 
ing her fingers together as if in church when I 
added that "he'd be all right in the morning 
after a good night's rest." 

"Pray God nothing happens to him!" she 
said at last, crossing herself. "Mignon is only 
a child and it would break her heart. Monsieur 
Lemois does not wish it, and there is trouble 
— much trouble — ahead for her, but while there 
is life there is hope. He is a good Gaston — 
133 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

his mother and I were girls together; she had 
only this one left — the boat upset and the 
father was drowned off Les Dents Terribles two 
years ago." 

Louis, whose heart is as big as his body, was 
less cautious. He must have a word with the 
girl herself. And so, when we had all gathered 
before the fire to dry out — for most of us were 
still wet and all ravenous — he called out to her 
in his cheery, hearty way: 

"That is a plucky gar^on of yours, mad- 
emoiselle. Monsieur Lemois would have been 
flattened into a pancake but for him. When 
the house fell it was Monsieur Gaston who 
jerked him away from the window and rolled 
a sofa on top of him. Ah! — a brave garfon, 
and one who does you credit." 

The girl — she was busying herself with her 
dishes at the time — blushed and said: "Merci, 
monsieur," her eyes dancing over the praise 
of her lover, but she was too modest and too 
well trained to say more. 

Again Le Blanc's siren came shrieking down 
the road. This time it would bring Lemois. 
I threw on another log to warm them both, 
and Louis began collecting a small assortment 
of glasses, Mignon following with a decanter. 

134 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

Several minutes passed, during which we 
waited for the heavy tread of fat Le Blanc. 
Then the door opened and Lea appeared; she 
was trembling from head to foot and white as 
a ghost. 

"Monsieur wants you — all of you — some- 
thing has happened! Not you, Mignon — you 
stay here." 

Inside the court-yard, close to the door of the 
Marmouset, stood Le Blanc's motor. Lemois 
was on the foot-board leaning over the body 
of a man stretched out on the two seats. 

"Easy now," Lemois whispered to Louis, who 
had pushed his way alongside of the others 
crowding about the car. "He collapsed again 
as soon as you all left. There is something 
serious I am afraid — that is why I brought 
him here. His mother wanted to take him 
home, but that's no place for him now. He 
must stay here to-night. We stopped and left 
word for the doctor and he will be here in a 
minute. Be careful. Monsieur Louis — not in 
there — upstairs." 

Louis was careful — careful as if he were lift- 
ing a baby; but he did not delay, nor did he 
take him upstairs. Picking up the unconscious 
fisherman bodily in his arms, he bore him clear 
135 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

of the machine, carried him through the open 
door of the Marmouset, and stretched him full 
length on the lounge, tucking a cushion under 
his head as the lad sank down into the soft 
mattress. 

As the flare of the table candles stirred by 
the night wind lighted up his face, Mignon, 
who had been pushing aside the chairs from 
out the wounded man's way, beHeving it to 
be Le Blanc, sprang forward, and with a half- 
stifled cry sank on her knees beside the boy. 
Lemois lunged forward, stooped quickly, and 
grasping her firmly by the arm, dragged her to 
her feet. 

"Leave the room! — ^you are in the way," he 
said in low, angry tones. "There are plenty 
here to take care of him." 

Louis, who had moved closer to the girl, 
and who had already begun to quiet her fears, 
wheeled suddenly and would have broken out 
in instantaneous protest had not Lea, her lean, 
tall body stretched to its utmost, her flat, 
sunken chest heaving with indignation, stepped 
in front of Lemois. 

"You are not kind, monsieur," she said 
coldly, with calm, unflinching eyes. 

"Hold your tongue! I do not want- your 
136 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

advice. Take her out! — this is no place for 
her!" 

Louis' eyes blazed. Unkindness to a woman 
was the one thing that always enraged him. 
Then his better judgment worked. 

"Give her to me, Lea," he said. "Come, 
Mignon! Don't cry, child; he's not hurt so 
bad; he'll be all right in the morning. Move 
away there, all of you!" and he led the sobbing 
girl from the room. 

A dull, paralyzing silence fell upon us all. 
Those of us who knew only the gentle, kind- 
hearted, always courteous Lemois were dumb 
with astonishment. Had he, too, received a 
crack on his head which had unsettled his 
judgment, or was this, after all, the real Le- 
mois ? 

The opening of the door and the hurried re- 
entrance of Louis, followed by the doctor, a 
short, thick-set man with a bald head, for a 
time relieved the tension. 

"I was on my way near here when your 
messenger met me," called out the doctor with 
a nod of salutation to the room at large as he 
dropped into a chair beside the sufferer, thus 
supplanting Brierley, who during Lemois' out- 
burst had been wiping the blood-stained face 
137 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

and lips with a napkin and finger-bowl he had 
caught up from the table. 

There was an anxious hush; the men stand- 
ing in a half-circle awaiting the decision; the 
doctor feeling for broken limbs, listening to his 
breathing, his hand on the boy's heart. Then 
there came a convulsive movement and the 
wounded man Ufted his head and gazed about 
him. 

The doctor bent closer, studied Gaston's 
eyes for a moment, rose to his feet, tucked his 
spectacles into a black leather case which he 
took from his pocket, and said calmly: 

"I think there's no fracture of the skull. I'll 
know definitely later on. He is, as I at first 
supposed, suffering from shock and has swal- 
lowed a lot of dust. He must have complete 
rest; get him to bed somewhere and send for 
a woman in the village to take care of him. I'll 
come to-morrow. Who carried him in here?" 

Louis nodded his head. 

"Then pick him up again and, if Monsieur 
Lemois is willing, put him in the room on the 
ground floor at the end of the court. I can 
get at him then from the outside without dis- 
turbing anybody. You, gentlemen, so I hear, 
are down here for your pleasure and not to 
138 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

run a hospital, and so I will see you are not 
disturbed." 

Louis leaned down, picked the young fisher- 
man up in his arms with no more effort than if 
he had been handling a bag of flour, and car- 
ried him out of the room, across the court, Lea 
following, and into the basement chamber, 
where he laid him on the bed, leaving him with 
the remark: 

"Now stay here and take care of him, Lea, 
iio matter what Monsieur Lemois says." 

Meanwhile Lemois had poured out a glass 
of wine for the doctor, waited until he had 
drank it, thanked him in his most courteous 
tones for his promptness, bidden him good- 
night on the threshold, closed the door behind 
him, and without a word to any of us had re- 
sumed his place by the fire. 

Another embarrassing silence ensued. Every 
one felt that the incident, if aggravated by any 
untimely remarks, might lead up to an out- 
break which would bring our visit to a prema- 
ture close. And yet both Lea and Mignon 
were so beloved by all of us, and the brutality 
of the attack upon the little maid was so un- 
called for, that we felt something was due to 
our own self-respect. 

139 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Herbert, catching our suggestive glances, es- 
sayed the task. He was the man held in most 
esteem by Lemois, and might perhaps be al- 
lowed to say things which the old gentleman 
would not take from the rest; and then again, 
whatever the outcome, Herbert could be de- 
pended upon to keep his temper no matter 
what Lemois might answer in return. 

"Mignon did nothing, monsieur, except show 
her love for her sweetheart — ^why break out on 
her?" Herbert's voice was low, but there was 
meaning behind it. 

"I won't have this thing!" came the indig- 
nant retort, all his poise gone. "That's why 
I broke out on her. Mignon is not for fisher- 
men, nor ditch-diggers, nor road-makers. She 
19 like my child — I have other things in store 
for her. I tell you I will not have it go on — 
she knows why and Lea knows why! I have 
said so, and it is finished!" 

"He about saved your life a little while ago. 
Does that count for anything?" The words 
edged their way through tightly closed lips. 

"Yes — for me; that is why I brought him 

home — but he has not saved Mignon's life. 

He would wreck it. She will marry somebody 

else and he will marry somebody else. There 

140 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

are too many thick-heads along the coast now. 
I decide to ste^r clear of them." 

Louis, who now that his human-ambulance 
trip was over, had returned to the Marmouset, 
stood wondering. What had taken place in 
his absence was a mystery. He had, after de- 
positing his burden, taken Mignon to Pierre 
and sat her down by the kitchen fire, where 
he had left her crying softly to herself. 

Lemois waited until Louis had found a seat 
and went on : 

"You, gentlemen, are my friends, and so I 
will explain to you what I would not explain 
to others. You wonder at what I have just 
said and done. I try to do my duty — that is 
my religion, and my only religion. I have tried 
to do it to-night. With your help I have done 
what I could to save my friend's property, 
because she was away and helpless. She has 
now left to her some of the things she loved. 
So it is with this girl. Ten years ago I found 
her, a child of eight, crying in the street. For 
months she had gotten up at daylight, had 
washed and dressed her two baby brothers, 
cooked their breakfast, cleaned house, and 
tucked in her bedridden mother; but, try as 
she would, she was late for school — not once, 
141 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

but several times. This was against the rules, 
and when the prizes and diplomas were given 
out, all she got was a scolding. Later on she 
was dismissed. Because she had no other 
place to go, and because I had no child of my 
own, I took her home with me. As I assumed 
all responsibiUty for her, and she has no one 
but me, I shall carry it out to the end, exactly 
as if she were my daughter. My own daughter 
should not and would not marry a fisherman, 
neither shall Mignon. Madame la Marquise 
de la Caux is in Paris, and I do what I can to 
look after her belongings. Madame, Mignon's 
mother, is in heaven, and the remnant of her 
people God knows where, and so I do what I 
can to look after their child." 

"But has the girl no say in the matter?" 
broke out Louis angrily. "You are not to live 
-with him — she is." 

"That may make some difference in your 
country. Monsieur Louis, but it makes no dif- 
ference in mine. In France we parents and 
guardians are the best judges of what is and 
what is not good for our children. Now, gentle- 
men, let us brush it all away. It is very credit- 
able to your hearts to be so interested in the 
child; I do not blame you. She is very lovely 
142 



TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH 

and very amusing, and when she leaves us — 
even with the man I shall choose for her — it will 
be a great grief for me, for you see I am quite 
alone in the world. So, Monsieur Herbert, 
there is my hand. Not to have you under- 
stand me would be harder than all the rest, 
for I esteem you as I do no other man. And you 
too. Monsieur Louis, with your big arms and 
your big heart. Let us be friends once more. 
And now I am tired out with the day's work, 
and if you do not mind I will say 'Good- 
night!'" 



143 



VII 

IN WHICH OUR LANDLORD BECOMES 
BOTH ENTERTAINING AND IN- 
STRUCTIVE 

' I ^HE experiences of the previous day had 
left their mark in stiffened joints and bUs- 
tered hands. Herbert was nursing a wrenched 
finger, Lemois had discovered a bruised back, 
and Louis a strained wrist — slight accidents all 
of them, unheeded in the excitement of the 
rescue, and only definitely located when the 
several victims got out of bed the next morn- 
ing. 

The real sufferer was Gaston. Two stitches 
had been taken in his shapely head and, al- 
though he was quite himself and restless as a 
goat, the doctor had given positive orders to 
Lea to keep him where he was until his wound 
should heal. To this Lemois had added an- 
other and far more cruel mandate, forbidding 
Mignon either outside or inside his bedroom 
door under pain of death, or words to that 
effect. 

144 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

It was not to be wondered at, therefore, that 
the day was passed quietly, the men keeping 
indoors, although the storm had whirled down 
the coast, leaving behind it only laughing blue 
skies and a light wind. 

The one exciting incident was a telegram 
from madame la marquise, thanking Lemois 
and his "brave body of men" for their heroic 
services and adding that she would come as 
soon as possible to inspect what she called her 
"ruin," and would then give herself the pleas- 
ure of thanking each and every one in person. 
This was followed some hours later by a second 
despatch inquiring after the wounded fisherman 
and charging Lemois to spare no expense in 
bringing him back to health; and a third one 
from Marc saying he had gone to Paris and 
would not be back for several days. 

The absorbing topic, of course, had been 
Lemois' outbreak on Mignon and subsequent 
justification of his conduct. Louis was the 
most outspoken of all, and, despite Lemois' de- 
fence, valiantly espoused the girl's cause, the 
rest of us with one accord pledging ourselves 
to fight her battles and Gaston's, no matter 
at what cost. Brierley even went so far as to 
offer to relieve Lea, during which blissful in- 
145 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

terim he would smuggle Mignon in for a brief 
word of sympathy, but this was frowned upon 
and abandoned when Herbert reminded us that 
we were in a sense Lemois' guests and could 
not, therefore, breed treachery among his ser- 
vants. To this was added his positive convic- 
tion that the girl's sufferings would so tell upon 
the old man that before many days he would 
not only regret his attitude, but would aban- 
don his ambitious plans and give her to the 
man she loved. 

If Lemois had any such misgivings there was 
no evidence of it in his manner. But for an 
occasional wry face when he moved, due to the 
blow of the overturned sofa, he was in an ex- 
ceptionally happy frame of mind. Nor did he 
show the slightest resentment toward any one 
of us for not agreeing with him. Even when 
the twilight hour arrived — a restful hour when 
the fellowship of the group came out strong- 
est, and men voiced the thoughts that lay 
closest to their hearts — no word escaped him. 
Music, church architecture, the influence of 
Rodin and Rostand on the art and literature 
of our time, French politics — all were touched 
upon in turn, but not a word of the condition 
of Gaston's broken head nor the state of 
146 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

Mignon's bleeding heart — nothing so harrowing. 
Indeed, so gay was he, so full of quaint say- 
ings and odd views of life and things, that 
when Brierley sat down at the spinet and ran 
his fingers over the keys, giving us snatches of 
melodies from the current music of the day, he 
begged for some mediaeval anthems "as a slight 
apology to my suiFering ears," and when Brier- 
ley complied with what he claimed was an 
old Italian chant, having found the original in 
Padua, Lemois branched ofF into a homily on 
church music which evinced such a mastery of 
the subject that even Brierley, who is some- 
thing of a musician himself, was filled with 
amazement. Indeed, the discussion was in dan- 
ger of becoming so heated that the old man, 
with a twinkle in his eye, relieved the tension 
with: 

"No, you are quite wrong. Monsieur Brier- 
ley, if you will forgive me for saying so. Your 
chant is not Italian; it is Spanish. I have a 
better way of knowing than by searching among 
musty libraries and sacristies. When your fin- 
gers were touching the keys I looked around 
my Marmouset to see who was listening be- 
side you gentlemen. I soon discovered that 
the two heads; on Monsieur Herbert's chair 
147 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

were glum and solemn; they might have been 
asleep so dull were they. My old Virgin in the 
corner, which I found in Rouen, and which is 
unquestionably French, never raised her eyes; 
but the two carved saints over your head, the 
ones I got in Salamanca when I was last there, 
were overjoyed. One smiled so sweetly that 
I could not take my eyes from her, and the 
other kept such perfect time with his head 
that I was sorry when you stopped. So you 
see, your chant is unquestionably Spanish, and 
I am glad." 

Nor did his spirits flag when dinner was over 
and he took his place by the coffee-table, hand- 
ing Mignon the tiny cups without even a look 
of reproach at the demure, sad-eyed girl who 
was keeping up so brave a heart. 

The change was a delightful one to the co- 
terie. As long as the embarrassing situation 
continued there was no telling what might hap- 
pen. A question of cuisine could be settled 
by more or less cayenne, but the question of a 
marriage settlement was another affair. Press 
him too far and the old gentleman might have 
bundled us all into the street and thrown our 
trunks after us. 

The wisest thing, therefore, was to meet his 
148 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

cordiality more than half way, an easy solu- 
tion, really, since his amende honorable of the 
night before had put us all on our mettle. He 
should be made to reahze and at once that all 
traces of ill feehng of every kind had been 
wiped out of our hearts. 

Herbert, who, as usual when any patching 
up was to be done, was chief pacificator, opened 
the programme by becoming suddenly inter- 
ested in the several rare specimens of furniture 
that enriched the room in which we sat, com- 
plimenting Lemois on his good taste in banish- 
ing from his collection the severe, uncomfort- 
able chairs and sofas of Louis XIV and XV, 
and calHng special attention to the noble Span- 
ish and Italian specimens about us, with wide 
seats, backs, and arms, where, even in the old 
days, tired mortals could have lounged with- 
out splitting their stockings or disarranging 
their wigs, had the dons and contessas worn 
any such absurdities. 

"Quite true, Monsieur Herbert, but you 
must remember that the aristocrats of that 
day never sat down — their mirrors were hung 
too high for them to see themselves should 
they recline. It was an era of high heels and 
polished floors, much low bowing, and overmuch 
149 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

ceremony. And yet it was a delightful period, 
and a most instructive one, for the antiquary, 
even if it did end with the guillotine. I have 
always thought that nothing so clearly defines 
the taste and intelligence of a nation as their 
furniture and house decoration. The frivolities 
of the Monarchs of the period is to be found in 
every twist and curve of their several styles, just 
as the virility and out-door life of the Greeks 
and Romans are expressed in their solid-marble 
benches and carved-stone sofas. Since I have 
no place in my gardens for ruins of this kind, 
I do not collect them — ^nor would I if I had. 
There should be, I think, a certain sane appro- 
priateness in every collection, even in so slight 
a one as my own, and a Greek garden with a 
line of motor cars on one side and a Normandy 
church on the other would, I am afraid, be a 
little out of keeping," and he laughed softly. 

" But you haven't kept close to that rule in 
this room," said Herbert, gazing about him. 
"We have everything here from Philip the 
Second to Napoleon the Third." 

"I have kept much closer than you think. 
Monsieur Herbert. The panels, ceiling, furni- 
ture, and stained glass, as well as the fireplace, 
are more or less of one period. The fixtures, 
ISO 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

such as the andirons, candelabra, and cur- 
tains, might have been obtained in one of the 
antiquary shops of the day — ^if any such ex- 
isted; and so could the china, silver, and glass. 
What I had in mind was, not a museum, but a 
room that would take you into its arms — a 
restful, warm, enticing room — one full of sur- 
prises, too" — and he pointed to his rarest pos- 
session, the Black Virgin, half hidden in the 
recess of the chimney breast. "You see, a very 
rare thing is always more effective when you 
come upon it suddenly than when you con- 
front it in the blaze of a window or under a 
fixed light. Your curiosity is then aroused, and 
you must stoop to study it. I arrange these 
surprises for all my most precious things. 

"Here, for instance" — and he crossed the 
room, opened a cabinet, and brought from its 
hiding-place a crystal chalice with a legend in 
Latin engraved in gold letters around the rim, 
placing it on the table so that the light from 
the candelabra could fall upon it — "here is 
something now you would not look at twice, 
perhaps, if it were put in the window and filled 
with flowers. It must be hidden away before 
you appreciate it. I found it in a convent out- 
side of Salamanca some years ago. It is evi- 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

dently the work of some old monk who spent 
his Hfe in doing this sort of thing, and is a very 
rare example of that kind of craftsmanship. Be 
very careful. Monsieur Louis, you will break 
the monk's heart, as well as my own, if you 
smash it." 

"Brierley is the man you want to look out 
for," answered the painter, bending closer over 
the precious object. "He'll be borrowing it to 
mix high-balls in unless you keep the cabinet 
locked." 

"Monsieur Brierley is too good for any such 
sacrilege. And now please stand aside, and 
you. Monsieur High-Muck, will you kindly 
move your arm?" and he lifted the vase from 
the cloth and replaced it in the cabinet, adding 
with a shrewd glance, "You see, it is always 
wise to keep the most precious things hidden 
away, with, perhaps, only an edge peeping out 
to arouse your curiosity — and I have many 
such." 

"Like a grisette's slipper below a petticoat," 
remarked Louis sotto voce. 

"Quite like a grisette's slipper, my dear 
Monsieur Louis. What a nimble wit is yours! 
Only, take an old man's advice and don't be 
too curious." 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

Every one roared, Louis louder than any 
one, and when quiet reigned once more Her- 
bert, who was determined to keep the talk 
along the lines which would most interest our 
landlord, and who had examined the chalice 
with the greatest interest, said, pointing to the 
cabinet: 

"And now show us something else. Here I 
have lived with these things for weeks at a 
time and yet am only beginning to find them 
out. What else have you that is especially 
rare?" 

Lemois, who had just closed the door of the 
cabinet, turned and began searching the room 
before replying. 

"Well, there is my bas-relief, my Madonna. 
It is just behind you — very beautiful and 
very rare. I do not lock it up; I keep it in a 
dark corner where the cross-lights from the 
window can bring out the face in strong relief. 
Please do me the favor, gentlemen, to leave 
your seats. I never take it from its place, " and 
he crossed the room and stood beneath it. 
"This is the only one in existence, so far as 
I know — that is, the only replica. The origi- 
nal is in the Sistine Chapel, near Ravenna. 
Bring a candle, please. Monsieur Brierley, so 
153 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

we can all enjoy it. See how beautiful is the 
Madonna's face — it is very seldom that so 
lovely a smile has lived in marble — and the 
tenderness of the mother suggested in the poise 
of the head as it bends over the Child. I never 
look at it without a twinge of my conscience, 
for it is the only thing in this room which I 
made off with without letting any one know I 
had it, but I was young then and a freebooter 
like Monsieur Herbert's man Goringe. I did 
penance for years afterward by putting a few 
lira in the poor-box whenever I was in Italy, 
and I often come in here and say my prayers, 
standing reverently before her, begging her for- 
giveness; and she always gives it — that is, she 
must — for the smile has never, during all these 
years, faded from her face." 

"But this is plaster," remarked Herbert, 
reaching up and passing his skilled fingers over 
the caste. "Very well done, too." 

"Yes — of course. I helped make the mould 
myself from the original marble built into the 
altar — and in the night too, when I had to feel 
my way about. I am glad you think it is so 
good." 

"Couldn't do it better myself. But why in 
the night?" 

1 54 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

"Ah — that is a long story." 

Herbert clapped his hands to command at- 
tention. 

"Everybody take their seats. Monsieur Le- 
mois is going to tell us of how he burglarized a 
church and made off with a Madonna." 

Louis walked solemnly toward the door, his 
hand over his heart. 

"You must excuse me, Herbert, if I leave 
the room before Lfmois begins," he said, turn- 
ing and facing the group, "for I should cer- 
tainly interrupt his recital. This whole dis- 
cussion is so repulsive to me, and so far below 
my own high standard of what is right and 
wrong, that my morals are in danger of being 
undermined. And I " 

"Dry up, Louis!" growled Brierley. "Go 
on, Lemois." 

"No, I mean what I say," protested Louis. 
"Only a few nights ago, and at this very table, 
a most worthy woman, descendant of one of the 
oldest families in France, and our guest, con- 
fessed to wilful perjury, and now a former 
mayor of this village admits that he robbed a 
church. I have not been brought up this way, 
and if " 

"Tie him to a chair, High-Muck!" cried 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Herbert. "No, his hands are up! All right, 
go on, Lemois." 

"Our landlord drew nearer to the table, sat 
down, and, with a humorous nod toward Louis, 
began : 

"You must all remember I was an impres- 
sionable young fellow at the time, full of dare- 
devil, romantic ideas, and, hke most young fel- 
lows, saw only the end in view without caring 
a sou about the means by which I reached it. 

"I found the bas-relief, as I have told you, 
in a small chapel outside of Ravenna — one 
of those deep-toned interiors lighted by dust- 
begrimed windows, the roof supported by rows 
of marble columns. The altar, which was low 
and of simple design, was placed at the top 
of a wide flight of three rose-marble steps over 
which swung a huge brass lamp burning a ruby 
light. With the exception of an old woman 
asleep on her knees before a figure of the Vir- 
gin, I was the only person in the building. I 
had already seen dozens of such interiors, all 
more or less aUke, and after walking around it 
once or twice was about to leave by a side door 
protected by a heavy clay-soiled red curtain 
when my eye fell on the original of the caste 
above you, the figures and surrounding panel 
iS6 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

being built into the masonry of the altar, a 
position it had occupied, no doubt, since the 
days of Michael Angelo. 

"For half an hour I stood before it — ^wor- 
shipping it, really. The longer I looked the 
more I wanted something to take away with 
me that would keep it alive in my memory. 
I drew a little, of course, and had my sketch- 
book filled, student-like, with bits of architect- 
ure, peasants, horses, and things I came across 
every day; but I knew I could never repro- 
duce the angelic smile on the Madonna's face, 
and that was the one thing that made it greater 
than all the bas-reliefs I had seen in all my 
wanderings. Then it suddenly occurred to me 
— there being no photographs in those days: 
none you could buy of a thing like this — that 
perhaps I could get some one in the village to 
make a caste, the Italians being experts at 
this work. While I was leaning over the rose- 
marble rail drinking it in, a door opened some- 
where behind the altar and an old priest came 
slowly toward me. 

"*It is very lovely, holy father,' I said, in an 
effort to open up a conversation which might 
lead somewhere. 

"'Yes!' he replied curtly; 'but love it on 
your knees.' 

^S7 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"So down I got, and there I stayed until he 
had finished his prayer at one of the side 
chapels and had left the church by the main 
door. 

"All this time I was measuring it with my 
eye — its width, thickness, the depth of the cut- 
ting, how much plaster it would take, how 
large a bag it would require in which to carry 
it away. This done I went back to Ravenna 
and started to look up some one of the image 
vendors who haunt the door of the great church. 

"But none of them would listen. It would 
take at least an hour before the plaster would 
be dry enough to come away from the marble. 
The priests — poor as some of them were — 
would never consent to such a sacrilege. With- 
out their permission detection was almost cer- 
tain; so please go to the devil, illustrious sig- 
nore, and do not tempt a poor man who does 
not wish to go to prison for twenty lira. 

"This talk, let me tell you, took place in a 
shop up a back street, kept by a young Italian 
image-vendor who made casts and moulds with 
the assistance of his father, who was a hunch- 
back, and an old man all rags whom I could 
see was listening to every word of the talk. 

"That same night, about the time the lamps 
began to be lighted, and I had started out in 
158 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

search of another mouldmaker, the old man in 
rags stepped out of the shadow of a wall and 
touched my arm. 

"*I know the place, signore, and I know the 
Madonna. I have everything here in this 
bucket — at night the church is closed, but 
there is a side door. I will take your twenty 
lira. Come with me.' 

"When you are twenty, you are like a hawk 
after its quarry — ^your blood boiling, your nerves 
keyed up, and you swoop down and get your 
talons in your prey without caring what hap- 
pens afterward. Being also a romantic hawk, 
I liked immensely the idea of doing my prowl- 
ing at night; there was a touch of danger in 
that kind of villany which daylight dispels. So 
off we started, the ragged man carrying the 
bucket holding a small bottle of olive-oil, dry 
plaster, and a thick sheet of modelling wax be- 
sides some tools : I with two good-sized candles 
and a box of matches. 

"When you rob a bank at night you must, 
so I am told, be sure you have a duphcate 
key or something with which to pick the lock. 
When you rob an Itahan church, there is no 
such bother — ^you simply push wide the door 
and begin feeling your way about. And it was 
159 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

not, to my surprise, very dark once we got in. 
The ruby light in the big altar lamp helped, 
and so did what was left of a single candle 
placed on a side altar by some poor soul as 
part penance for unforgiven sins. 

"And it did not take long once we got to 
work. First a coat of oil to keep the wax from 
sticking to the marble; then a patting and forc- 
ing of the soft stuff with thumbs, fingers, and a 
wooden tool into the crevices and grooves of the 
stone, and then a gentle pull. 

"Just here my courage failed and my con- 
science gave a little jump like the toothache. 
It might have been the quick flare of the lone 
candle on the side altar — I had not used my 
own, there being light enough to see to work 
— or it might have been my heated imagina- 
tion, but I distinctly saw on the oil-smeared 
face of the blessed mother an expression of 
such intense humiliation that I pulled out my 
handkerchief, and although the ragged man 
was calling me to hurry, and I myself heard 
the noise of approaching footsteps, I kept on 
wiping off" the oil until I saw her smile once 
more. 

"The time lost caused our undoing — or rather 
mine. The ragged man with the precious mould 
1 60 



OUR LANDLORD ENTERTAINS 

ran out the side door which was never locked 
— the one he knew — I landed in the arms of a 
priest. 

"He was bald-headed, wore sandals, and car- 
ried a lantern. 

"'What are you doing here?' he asked 
gruffly. 

"I pulled out the two candles and held them 
up so he could see them. 

"'I came to burn these before the Madonna 
■ — the door was open and I walked in.' 

"He hfted the lantern and scanned my face. 

"'You are the man who was here this morn- 
ing. Did you get down on your knees as I 
told you?' 

"'Yes, holy father.' 

"'Get down again while I close the church. 
You can light your candles by the lantern,' 
and he laid it on the stone pavement beside 
me and moved off into the gloom. 

"I did everything he bade me — never was 
there a more devout worshipper — handed him 
back his lantern, and made my way out. 

"At the end of the town the ragged man 

thrust his head over a low wall. He seemed 

greatly relieved, and picking up the bucket, we 

two started on a run for my lodgings. Before 

i6i 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

I went to bed that night he had mixed up the 
dry plaster in his bucket and taken the cast. 
He wanted to keep the matrix, but I wouldn't 
have it. I did not want his dirty fingers feel- 
ing around her lovely face, and so I paid him 
his blood money and pounded the mould out 
of shape. The next morning I left Ravenna 
for Paris. 

"You see now, messieurs, what a disrepu- 
table person I am." Here he rose from his 
seat and walked back to the bas-relief. "And 
yet, most blessed of women" — and he raised 
his eyes as if in prayer — " I think I would do it 
all over again to have you where you could 
always listen to my sins." 



163 



VIII 

CONTAINING SEVERAL EXPERIENCES 
AND ADVENTURES SHOWING THE 
WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

TJTOW it began I do not remember, for noth- 
ing had led up to it except, perhaps, 
Le Blanc's arrival for dinner half an hour late, 
due, so he explained, to a break in the running 
gear of his machine, most of which time he 
had spent flat on his back in the cold mud, 
monkey-wrench in hand, instead of in one of 
our warm, comfortable chairs. 

No sooner was he seated at my side and his 
story told than we fell naturally to discussing 
similar moments in life when such sudden con- 
trasts often caused us to look upon ourselves 
as two distinct persons having nothing in com- 
mon each with the other. Lemois, whose story 
of the stolen Madonna the previous night had 
made us eager for more, described, in defence 
of the newly launched theory, a visit to a 
Swiss chalet, and the sense of comfort he felt 
in the warmth and coseyness of it all, as he 
163 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

settled himself in bed, when just as he was 
dozing off a fire broke out and in less than five 
minutes he, with the whole family, was shiv- 
ering in a snow-bank while the house burned 
to the ground. 

"And a most uncomfortable and demoraliz- 
ing change it was, messieurs — one minute in 
warm white sheets and the next in a blanket of 
cold snow. What has always remained in my 
mind was the rapidity with which I passed 
from one personality to another." 

Brierley, taking up the thread, described his 
own sensations when, during a visit to a friend's 
luxurious camp in the Adirondacks, he lost his 
way in the forest and for three days and nights 
kept himself alive on moose-buds and huckle- 
berries. 

"Poor grub when you have been living on 
porter-house steak and lobsters from Fulton 
Market and peaches from South Africa. Time, 
however, didn't appeal to me as it did to Le- 
mois, but hunger did, and I have never looked 
a huckleberry in the face since without the same 
queer feeling around my waistband." 

Appealed to by Herbert for some experiences 
of my own, I told how this same realization of 
intense and sudden contrasts always took pos- 
164 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

session of me, when, after having lived for a 
week on hardtack, boiled pork, and plum duff, 
begrimed with dust and cement, I would 
leave the inside of a coffer-dam and in a few 
hours find myself in the customary swallow- 
tail and white tie at a dinner of twelve, sitting 
among ladies in costly gowns and jewels. 

"What, however, stuck out clearest in my 
mind," I continued, "was neither time nor 
what I had had to eat, but the enormous con- 
trasts in the color scheme of my two experi- 
ences: at noon a gray sky and leaden sea, re- 
lieved by men in overalls, rusty derricks, and 
clouds of white steam rising from the concrete 
mixers; at night filmy gowns and bare shoul- 
ders rose pink in the softened light against a 
strong relief of the reds and greens of deep- 
toned tapestries and portraits in rich frames. 
I remember only the color." 

At this Herbert hghted a fresh cigar and, 
with the flaming match still in hand, said 
quietly: 

"While you men have been talking I have 
been going over some of my own experiences" 
— here he blew out the match — "and I have a 
great mind to tell you of one that I had years 
ago which made an indelible impression on me." 
i6s 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Leave out your 'great mind,' Herbert," 
cried Louis — "we'll believe anything but that 
— and give us the story — that is, Le Blanc, if 
you will be so very good as to move your very 
handsome but slightly opaque head, so that I 
can watch the distinguished mud-dauber's face 
while he talks. Fire away, Herbert!" 

"I was a lad of twenty at the time," resumed 
Herbert, pausing for a moment until the un- 
embarrassed Le Blanc had pushed back his 
chair, "and for reasons which then seemed 
good to me ran away from home, and for two 
years served as common sailor aboard an Eng- 
lish merchantman, bunking in the forecastle, 
eating hardtack, and doing work aloft like any 
of the others. I had the world before me, was 
strong and sturdily built, and, being a happy- 
hearted young fellow, was on good terms with 
every one of the crew except a dark, murder- 
ous-looking young Portuguese of about my own 
age, active as a cat, and continually quarrelling 
with every one. When you get a low-down 
Portuguese with negro blood in his veins you 
have reached the bottom of cunning and cruelty. 
I've come across several of them since — some in 
dress suits — and know. 

"For some reason this fellow hated me as 
i66 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

only sailors who are forced to live together on 
long voyages know how to hate. My bunk was 
immediately over his, and when I slid out in 
the morning my feet had to dangle in front of 
his venomous face. When I crawled up at 
night the same thing happened. We worked 
side by side, got the same pay, and ate the 
same grub, yet I never was with him without 
feeling his animosity toward me. 

"It was only by the merest accident that I 
found out why he hated me. He blurted it 
out in the forecastle one night after I had gone 
on deck, and the men told me when I dropped 
down the companion-way again. He hated me 
because I brushed my teeth ! Oh ! — ^you needn't 
laugh ! Men have murdered each other for less. 
I once knew a man who picked a quarrel at 
the club with a diplomat because he dared to 
twist his mustache at the same angle as his 
own; and another — an Austrian colonel — ^who 
challenged a brother officer to a mortal duel 
for serving a certain Johannesburg when it was 
a well-known fact that he claimed to own every 
bottle of that year's vintage. 

"I continued brushing my teeth, of course, 
and at the same time kept an eye on the Port- 
uguese whose slurs and general ugliness at 
167 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

every turn became so marked that I was con- 
vinced he was only waiting for a chance to put 
a knife into me. The captain, who studied his 
crew, was of the same opinion and instructed 
the first mate to look after us both and pre- 
vent any quarrel reaching a crisis. 

"One night, off Cape Horn, a gale came up, 
and half a dozen of us were ordered aloft to 
furl a topsail. That's no easy job for a green- 
horn; sometimes it's a pretty tough job for an 
old hand. The yard is generally wet and slip- 
pery, the reefers stiff as marhn-spikes, and the 
sail hard as a board, particularly when the 
wind drives it against your face. But orders 
were orders and up I went. Then again, I 
had been a fairly good gymnast when I was 
at school, and could throw wheels on the hori- 
zontal bars with the best of them. 

"The orders had come just as we were fin- 
ishing supper. As usual the Portuguese had 
opened on me again; this time it was my table 
manners, my way of treating my plate after 
finishing meals being to leave some of the frag- 
ments still sticking to the bottom and edge, 
while he wiped his clean with a crust of bread 
as a compliment to the cook. 

"The mate had heard the last of his out- 
i68 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

break, and in detailing the men sent me up 
the port ratlines and the Portuguese up the 
starboard. The sail was thrashing and flop- 
ping in the wind, the vessel rolling her rails 
under as the squall struck her. I was so oc- 
cupied with tying the reefers over the can- 
vas and holding on at the same time to the 
slippery yard, that I had not noticed the Port- 
uguese, who, with every flop of the sail, was 
crawling nearer to where I clung. 

"He was almost on top of me when I caught 
sight of him sliding along the foot-stay, his 
eyes boring into mine with a look that made 
me stop short and pull myself together. One 
hand was around the yard, the other clutched 
his sheath knife. Another lunge of the ship 
and he would let drive and over I'd go. 

"For an instant I quavered before the fel- 
low's hungry glare, his tiger eyes fixed on 
mine, the knife in his hand, the sail smothering 
me as it flapped in my face, while below were 
the black sea and half-lighted deck. Were he 
to strike, no trace would be left of me. I was 
a greenhorn, and it would be supposed I had 
missed my hold and fallen clear of the ship. 

"Bracing myself, I twisted a reefer around 
my wrist for better hold, determined, if he 
169 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

moved an inch nearer, to kick him square in 
the face. But at that instant a sea broke over 
the starboard bow, wrenching the ship, fore and 
aft and jerking the yards as if they had been 
so many tent-poles. Then came a horrible 
shriek, and looking down I saw the Portuguese 
clutching wildly at the rathnes, clear the ship's 
side, and strike the water head-foremost. 'Man 
overboard!' I yelled at the top of my lungs, 
slid to the deck, and ran into the arms of the 
first mate, who had been watching us and who 
had seen the whole thing. 

"Some of the crew made a spring for the 
davits, I among them. But the mate shook 
his head. 

"'Ain't no use lowerin',' he said. 'Besides, 
he ain't worth savin'.' 

"That night I had to crawl over the dead 
man's empty berth; his pillow and quilt were, 
just as he had left them, all tumbled and 
mussed, and his tin tobacco-box where he had 
laid it. Try 'as I would as I lay awake in my 
warm bunk and thought of him out in the sea, 
and my own close shave for life, I could not get 
rid of a certain uncanny feeling — something 
akin to the sensation as that of which Lemois 
was speaking. Only an instant's time had saved 
170 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

me from the same awful plunge — his last in 
life. I never got over the feeling until we 
reached port, for his berth was left untouched 
and his tin tobacco-box still lay beside his 
pillow. Even now when a sailor or fisherman 
pulls out an old tin box — they are all pretty 
much alike — or cuts a plug with a sheath knife, 
it gives me a shudder." 

"Served the brute right!" cried Louis. 
"Very good story, Herbert — a little exagger- 
ated in parts, particularly where you were so 
absent-minded as to select the face of the gen- 
tleman for your murderous kick, but it's all 
right : very good story. , I could freeze you all 
solid by an experience I had with an Apache 
who followed me on my way to Montmartre 
last week, but I won't." 

"Give it to us, Louis!" cried everybody in 
unison. 

"No!" 

"Well, why not?" I demanded. 

"Because he turned down the next street. I 
said I could, and I would if he'd kept on after 
me. Your turn, Brierley. We haven't heard 
from you since you kept school for crows and 
wild ducks and taught them how to dodge bird 
shot. Unhook your ear-flaps, gentlemen; the 
171 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

distinguished naturalist is about to relate 
another one of his soul-stirring adventures — 
pure fiction, of course, but none the less enter- 
taining." 

Before I could reply, Lemois, who had fol- 
lowed the course of the discussion with the 
keenest interest, interrupted with a deprecating 
shrug of his shoulders, his fingers widened out. 

"But not another bird story, if you please. 
Monsieur Brierley. We want something deeper 
and stronger. We have touched upon a great 
subject to-night, and have only scraped the 
surface." 

Herbert leaned forward until he caught Le- 
mois' eye. 

"Say the rest, Lemois. You have something 
to tell us." 

"I! No — I have nothing to tell you. My 
life has been too stupid. I am always either 
bowing to my guests or making sauces for them 
over Pierre's fire. I could only tell you about 
things of which I have heard. You, Monsieur 
Herbert, can tell us of things with which you 
have lived. I want to listen now to something 
we will remember, like your story of the can- 
nibal's wife. Almost every night since you 
have been here I go to bed with a great song 
172 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

ringing in my ears. You, Monsieur Herbert, 
must yourself have seen such tragedies in men's 
Uves, when in the space of a Hghtning's flash 
their souls were stripped clean and they left 
naked." 

Herbert played with his fork for a moment, 
threw it back upon the cloth, and then said in 
a decided tone: 

"No — it is not my turn; I've talked enough 
to-night. Open up, Le Blanc, and give us some- 
thing out of the old Latin Quartier — there were 
tragedies enough there." 

"Only what absinthe and starvation brought 
— and a ring now and then on the wrong girl's 
finger — or none at all, as the case might have 
been. But you've got a story, Herbert, if you 
will tell it, which will send Lemois to bed with 
a whole orchestra sounding in his ears." 

Herbert looked up. 

"Which one?" 

"The fever camp at Bangala." 

Herbert's face became instantly grave and 
an expression of intense thought settled upon 
it. We waited, our eyes fixed upon him. 

"No — I'd rather not, Le Blanc," he said 
slowly, "That belongs to the dead past, and it 
is best to leave it so." 

173 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Tell it, Herbert," I coaxed. 
"Both you and Le Blanc have heard it." 
"But Lemois and the others haven't." 
"Got any cannibals or barbecues in it, Her- 
bert?" inquired Louis. 

"No, just plain white man all the way 
through, Louis. Two of them are still alive 
— I and another fellow. And you really want 
it again, Le Blanc? Well, all right. But 
before I begin I must ask you to pardon 
my referring so often to my African experi- 
ences" — and he glanced in apology around the 
table — "but I was there at a most impression- 
able age, and they still stand out in my mind 
— this one in particular. You may have read 
of the horrors that took place at Bangala in 
what at the time was known as the fever camp, 
where some of the bravest fellows who ever 
entered the jungles met their deaths. Both na- 
tives and white men had succumbed, one after 
another, in a way that wiped out all hope. 

"The remedies we had, had been used with- 
out effect, and quinine had lost its power to 
pull down the temperature, and each fellow 
knew that if he were not among those carried 
out feet foremost to-day, and buried so deep 
that the hyenas could not dig him up, it was 

174 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

only a question if on the morrow his own 
turn did not come. A strange kind of fear 
had taken possession of us, sick or well, and 
a cold, deadening despair had crept into our 
hearts, so great was the mortality, and so 
quickly when once a man was stricken did the 
end come. We were hundreds of miles from 
civilization of any kind, unable to move our 
quarters unless we deserted our sick, and even 
then there was no healthier place within reach. 
And so, not knowing who would go next, we 
awaited the end. 

"The only other white man in the country 
besides ourselves was a young English mis- 
sionary who had taken up his quarters in a 
native village some two miles away, in the low, 
marshy lands, and who from the very day of 
his arrival had set to work to teach and care 
for the swarms of native children who literally 
infested the settlement. Many of these had 
been abandoned by their parents and would 
have perished but for his untiring watchfulness. 
When the fever broke out he, with the assist- 
ance of those of the natives whom he could 
bribe to help, had constructed a rude hospital 
into which the little people were placed. These 
he nursed with his own hands, and as children 
I7S 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

under ten years of age were less liable to the 
disease than those who were older, and, when 
stricken, easier to coax back to life, his mortal- 
ity list was very much less than our own. 

"With our first deaths we would send for 
him to come up the hill and perform the last 
rites over the poor fellows, but, as our lists 
grew, we abandoned even this. Why I es- 
caped at the time I do not know, unless it was 
by sheer force of will. I have always believed 
that the mind has such positive influence over 
the body that if you can keep it working you 
can arrest the progress of any disease — cer- 
tainly long enough for the other forces of the 
body to come to its aid. So when I was at 
last bowled over and so ill that I could not 
stand on my feet, or even turn on my bed, I 
would have some one raise me to a sitting post- 
ure and then I would deliberately shave my- 
self. The mental effort to get the beard off 
without cutting the skin; the determination to 
leave no spot untouched; the making of the 
lather, balancing of the razor, and propping 
up of the small bit of looking-glass so as to re- 
flect my face properly, was what I have always 
thought really saved my hfe. 

"What I started to tell you, however, hap- 
176 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

pened before I was finally stricken and will 
make you think of the tales often heard of 
shipwrecked men who, having given up all hope 
at the pumps, turn in despair and break open 
the captain's lockers, drinking themselves into 
a state of bestiality. It is the coward's way 
of meeting death, or perhaps it means the great 
final protest of the physical against the spirit- 
ual — a mad defiance of the inevitable — and 
confirms what some of our physiologists have 
always maintained — that only a thin stratum 
of self-control divides us from something lower 
than the beast. 

"We had buried one of our bravest and best 
comrades, one whose name is still held in rev- 
erence by all who knew him, and after we had 
laid him in the ground an orgy began, which 
I am ashamed to say — for I was no better 
than the rest — ^was as cowardly as it was bes- 
tial. My portable india-rubber bath-tub, being 
the largest vessel in the camp, was the punch- 
bowl, and into it was dumped every liquor we 
had in the place: Portuguese wine, Scotch 
whiskey. Bass's ale, brown stout, cognac — 
nothing escaped. You can imagine what fol- 
lowed. Those of our natives who helped them- 
selves, after a wild outburst of savagery, soon 
177 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

relapsed into a state of unconsciousness. The 
exhilaration of the white man lasted longer, and 
was followed by a fighting frenzy which filled 
the night with horror. Men tore their clothes 
from their backs and, half-naked, danced in a 
circle, the flickering light of the camp-fire dis- 
torting their bodies into demons. It was hell 
let loose! 

"I have got rather a strong head, but one 
cup of that mixture sent my brain reeling. 
My fear was that my will would give way and 
I be tempted to drink a second dipperful and 
so knocked completely out. With this idea 
firmly in my mind, I watched my chance and 
escaped outside the raging circle, where I found 
a pool into which I plunged my head. This 
sobered me a little and I kept on in the dark- 
ness until I reached the edge of the hill over- 
looking the missionary's settlement, the shouts 
of the frenzied men growing fainter and fainter. 

"As I sat there my brain began to clear. I 
noticed the dull Hght of the moon shrouded in 
a deadly fog that rose from the valley below. 
In its mysterious dimness the wraiths of mist 
and fog became processions of ghosts stealing 
slowly up the hill — spirits of the dead on their 
way to judgment. The swollen moon swim- 
178 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

ming in the drowsy vapor was an evil eye from 
which there was no escape — searching the souls 
of men — mine among them — I, who had been 
spared death and in return had defied all the 
laws of decency. The cries of the forest rang 
in my ears, loud and insistent. The howl of a 
pariah dog, the hoot of an owl, became so 
many questions — all directed toward me — all 
demanding an answer for my sins. Even the 
hum of myriads of insects seemed concerned 
with me, disputing in low tones and deciding 
on my punishment. 

"Gradually these sounds grew less insistent, 
and soft as a breath of air — hardly perceptible 
at first — there rose from the valley below, like 
a curl of smoke mounting into the stillness, a 
strain of low, sweet music, and as suddenly 
ceased. I bent my head, wondering whether 
I was dreaming. I had heard that same music, 
when I was a boy at home, wafted toward me 
from the open window of the village church. 
How came it here? Why sing it.? Why tort- 
ure me with it — ^who would never see home 
again ? 

"I struggled to my feet, steadied myself 
against a cotton-tree, and fixed my eyes on the 
valley below; my ears strained to catch the 
179 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

first recurrent note. Again it rose on the night 
air, this time strong and clear, as if a company 
of angels were singing. 

"I knew now! 

"It was the hymn my friend the missionary 
had taught the children. 

"I plunged down the hill, stumbling, faUing, 
only to drag myself to my feet again, groping 
my way through the dense night fog and the 
tangle of undergrowth, until I reached the small 
stockade at the foot of the incline which circled 
the missionary station. Crossing this ground, 
I followed the path and entered a small gate. 
Beyond it lay a flat piece of land cleared of all 
underbrush, and at its extreme end the rude 
bamboo hut of a hospital filled with sick and 
dying children. 

"Once more on the deadly night air rose the 
hymn, a note of exaltation now, calling me on 
— to what I knew not, nor did I care, so it 
would ease the grinding fear under which I had 
lived for weeks. 

"Suddenly I came to a halt. In the faint 
moonlight, within a dozen yards of me, knelt 
the figure of a man. He was praying — his 
hands upraised, his face lifted — the words fall- 
ing from his lips distinctly audible. I moved 
1 80 



THE WIDE CONTRASTS IN LIFE 

nearer. Before him was a new-made grave — ■ 
one he had dug himself — to cover the body of 
a child who had died at sunset. 

"It was a moment I have never forgotten, 
and never want to forget. 

"On the hill above me were the men I had 
left— a frenzied body of bestial cowards who 
had dishonored themselves, their race, and 
their God; here beside me, huddled together, 
a group of forest children — spawn of cannibal 
and savage — racked with fever, half-starved, 
many of them delirious, their souls rising to 
heaven on the wings of a song. 

"And then the kneehng man himself! — his 
courage facing death every hour of the day — 
alone — no one to help — only his Maker as wit- 
ness. I tell you, gentlemen, that when I stood 
beside him and looked into his eyes, caught the 
tones of his voice, and watched the movement 
of his fingers patting the last handfuls of earth 
over the poor little nameless body, and realized 
that his only recompense lay in that old hne I 
used to hear so often when I was a boy — 'If ye 
have done it unto the least of these, ye have 
done it unto me' — I could have gone down on 
my knees beside him and thanked my Creator 
that He had sent me to him." 
i8i 



IX 



IN WHICH MADAME LA MARQUISE 
BINDS UP BROKEN HEADS AND 
BLEEDING HEARTS 

'T^HE morning brought us two most wel- 
come pieces of news, one being that Gas- 
ton, his head swathed in bandages, had, with 
the doctor's approval, gone home an hour be- 
fore breakfast, and the other that our now 
adorable Madame la Marquise de la Caux, with 
Marc as gentleman-in-waiting, would arrive at 
the Inn some time during the day or evening, 
the exact hour being dependent upon her duties 
at the site of her " ruin." These pieces of news, 
being positive and without question, were re- 
ceived with the greatest satisfaction, Gaston's 
recovery meaning fresh roses in Mignon's 
cheeks and madame's visit giving us another 
glimpse of her charming personality. 

That which was less positive, because imme- 
diately smothered and sent around in whispers, 
were rumors of certain happenings that had 
taken place shortly after daybreak. Mignon, 
182 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

so the word ran, before seeking her little cot 
the night before, had caught a nod, or the 
lift of Lea's brow, arched over a meaning eye, 
or a significant smile — some sort of wireless, 
anyway, with Lea as chief operator, and a pri- 
vate wire to Louis' room, immediately over 
Gaston's. What she had learned had kept the 
girl awake half the night and sent her skipping 
on her toes at the break of dawn to the little 
passageway at the far end of the court-yard, 
where she had cried over Gaston and kissed 
him good-by. Lea being deaf and dumb and 
blind. All this occurred before the horrible 
old bogie (Lemois was the bogie), who had 
given strict orders that everything should be 
done for the comfort of the boy before he left 
the Inn, was fairly awake; certainly before he 
was out of bed. 

"By thunder! — I could hardly keep the tears 
out of my eyes I was so sorry for her," Louis 
had said when he burst into my room an hour 
before getting-up time. "I heard the noise 
and thought he was suffering again and needed 
help, and so I hustled out and came bump 
up against them as they stood at the foot of 
the stairs. I wasn't dressed for company and 
dared not go back lest they should see me, and 
183 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

so I flattened myself against the wall and was 
obliged to hear it all. I'm not going to give 
them away; but if any girl will love me as she 
does that young fellow she can have my bank 
account. And he was so manly and square 
about it all — no snivelling, no making a poor 
face. 'It is nothing, Mignon — I am all right. 
Don't cry,' he kept saying. 'Everything will 
come out our way in the end.' By Jove! — I 
wish some girl loved me Hke that!" 

Such an expression of happiness had settled, 
too, on Lea's face as she brought our coflFee, 
that Herbert caught up his sketch-book and 
made her stand still until he had transferred 
her dear old head in its white cap to paper. 
Then, the portrait finished — and it was ex- 
actly like her — what a flash of joy suff'used 
Mignon's face when he called to her and whis- 
pered in her ear the wonderful tale of why he 
had drawn it and who was to be its proud pos- 
sessor; and when it was all to take place, a 
bit of information that sent her out of the 
room and skipping across the court, her tiny 
black kitten at her heels. 

It was, indeed, a joyous day, with every one 
in high good humor, culminating in the wild- 

184 




Herbert Ciu^ht up his sketch-txv>k and . . . transferreJ her dear old 
head ... to p.\Der 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

est enthusiasm when the sound of a siren, fol- 
lowed by the quick "chug-chug" of the stop 
brake of madame's motor, announced the ar- 
rival of that distinguished woman an hour 
ahead of time. 

"Ah! — gentlemen!" she shouted out, rising 
from her seat, both hands extended before any 
of us could reach her car, "I have come over to 
crown you with laurel! Oh, what a magnifi- 
t . lot of heroes! — and to think you saved 
my poor, miserable little mouse-trap of a villa 
that has been trying all its life to slide down 
hill into the sea and get washed and scrubbed. 
No, I don't want your help — I'm going to 
jump!" and out she came, man's ulster, black- 
velvet jockey cap, short skirt, high boots, and 
all. Marc following. 

"And now. Monsieur Marc, give me a little 
help — no, not here — down below the seat. 
Careful, now! And the teakwood stand is 
there too — I steadied them both with my 
feet. There, you dear men!" — here she lifted 
the priceless treasure above her head, her eyes 
dancing — "what do you think of your punch- 
bowl ? This is for your choicest mixtures when- 
ever you meet, and not one of you shall have 
a drop out of it unless you promise to make 
i8S 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

me honorary member of your coterie, with full 
permission to stay away or come just as I 
please. Isn't it a beauty? — and not a crack 
or scar on it — Old Ming, they tell me, of the 
first dynasty. There, dear Lemois, put it 
among your things, but never out of reach." 

She had shaken every one's hand now and 
was stamping her Httle feet in their big men's 
boots to keep up her circulation, talking to us 
all the while. 

"Ah, Monsieur Louis, it was you who carried 
out my beloved piano — Liszt played on it, and 
so did Paderewski and Livadi, and a whole lot 
of others, until it gave out and I sent it down 
here, more for its associations than anything 
else. And you too. Monsieur Herbert" — and 
she gave him a low curtsy, as befitted his rank 
■ — "you-weie-a-real-major-general, and saved 
the life of that poor young fisherman; and you, 
Lemois, rescued my darling miniatures and my 
books. Yes — I have heard all about it. Oh ! — 
it was so kind of you all — and you were so 
good — nothing I really loved is missing. I 
have been all the morning feasting my eyes on 
them. And now let us all go in and stir up 
the fire — and, please, one of you bring me a 
thimbleful of brandy. I have rummaged over 
1 86 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

my precious things until I have worked my- 
self into a perspiration, and then I must drive 
like Jehu until I get chilled to the bone. Catch 
cold! — my dear Monsieur Brierley — I never 
catch cold ! I should be quite ashamed of my- 
self if I did." 

We were inside the Marmouset now. Marc 
unbuttoning her outer garments, revealing her 
plump, penguin-shaped body clothed in a 
blouse of mouse-colored corduroy with a short 
skirt to match, her customary red silk scarf 
about her throat; the silver watch with its 
leather strap, which hung from the pocket of 
her blouse, her only ornament. 

"Take my cap, please," and she handed it to 
the ever-obsequious Marc, who always seemed 
to have lost his wits and identity in her pres- 
ence. This done, she ran her fingers through 
her flufi^ of gray hair, caught it in a twist with 
her hand, skewered it with a tortoise-shell pin, 
and, with a "So! that's all over," drew up a 
chair to the blaze and settled herself in it, talk- 
ing all the time, the men crowding about her 
to catch her every word, 

"And now how about that young fisherman ? 
Thank you. Monsieur Herbert. No, that is 
quite enough; a thimbleful of cognac is just 
187 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

what I need — more than that I have given up 
these many years. Come! — the young fisher- 
man, Lemois. Is he badly hurt? Has he a 
doctor? How long before he gets well? Can 
I go to see him as soon as I get warm? Such 
a brave lad — and all to save my miserable jim- 
cracks." 

Both of Lemois' hands were outstretched in 
a low bow. "We could do no less than rescue 
your curios, madame. Our only fear is that 
we may have left behind something more pre- 
cious than anything we saved." 

"No, I have not missed a single thing; and 
it wouldn't make any difference if I had; we 
love too many things, anyway, for our good. 
As to the house — it is too funny to see it. I 
laughed until I quite lost my breath. Every- 
thing is sticking out like the quills on a mad 
hedgehog, and the porch steps are smashed flat 
up against the ceiling. Oh! — it is too ridicu- 
lous ! Just fancy, only the shelf in my boudoir 
is left where it used to be, and the plants are 
still blooming away up in the air as if nothing 
had happened. But not a word more of all 
this!" and she rose from her seat. "Take me 
to see the poor fellow at once!" 

Again Lemois bowed, this time with the 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

greatest deference. The exalted rank of his 
guest was a fact he never lost sight of. 

"He is not here, madame," he said in an 
apologetic tone; "I have sent him home to his 
mother." 

"Home! — to his mother? — and after my de- 
spatch. Oh! — but I could take so much bet- 
ter care of him here! Why did you do it?" 

"For the best of reasons — first, because the 
doctor said he might go, and then because 
I" — and he lowered his voice and glanced 
around to see if Mignon had by any chance 
slipped into the room — "because," he added 
with a knowing smile, "it is sometimes dan- 
gerous to have so good-looking a fellow about." 

"So good of you, Lemois," she flashed back; 
"so thoughtful and considerate. Twenty years 
ago I might have lost my heart, but " 

"Oh, but, madame — I never for an instant — " 
He was really frightened. 

"Oh, it was not me, then!" and one of her 
ringing, silvery laughs gladdened the room. 
"Who, then, pray? — certainly not that dear 
old woman with the white cap who — Oh! — I 
see! — it is that pretty little Norman maid. 
Such a winning creature, and so modest. Yes, 
I remember her distinctly. But why should not 
189 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

these two people love each other? He is brave, 
and you say he is handsome — ^what better can 
the girl have?" 

Lemols shrugged his shoulders in a helpless 
way, but with an expression on his obstinate 
face that showed his entire satisfaction with 
his own course. 

Madame read his thoughts and turned upon 
him, a dominating ring in her voice. "And you 
really mean, Lemois, that you are playing 
jailer, and shutting up two hearts in different 
cells?" 

Lemois, suddenly nonplussed, hesitated and 
looked away. We held our breaths for his 
answer. 

"Ah, madame," he replied at last slowly, all 
the fight knocked out of him, "it is not best 
that we discuss it. Better let me know what 
madame la marquise will have for dinner — we 
have waited all day until your wishes were 
known." 

"Nothing — not a crumb of anything until I 
find out about these lovers. Did you ever 
know anything like it, gentlemen? Here on 
one side are broken heads and broken hearts 
— on the other, a charming old gentleman 
whom I have known for years, and whom I 
190 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

love dearly, playing bear and ready to eat up 
both of these young turtle doves. When I re- 
monstrate he wants to know whether I will 
have my chicken roasted on a spit or en cas- 
serole! Oh, you are too silly, Lemois!" 

"But she is like my daughter, madame," re- 
plied Lemois humbly, and yet with a certain 
dignity. 

"And, therefore, she mustn't marry an hon- 
est young fisherman. Is that what you mean ? " 

Lemois merely inclined his head. 

"And pray what would you make of her — 
a countess?" 

A grim baffled smile ruffled the edges of the 
old man's lips as he tried again to turn the 
conversation, but she would not listen. 

"No, I see it all! You want some flat- 
chested apothecary, or some fat clerk, or a 
notary, or a grocer, or — Oh, I know all about 
it! Now do you go and get your dinner ready 
— anything will suit me — and when it is over 
and Monsieur Herbert is firmly settled in his 
big chair, with the funny heads listening to 
everything we say, I am going to tell you a 
story about one of your mismated marriages, 
and I want you to listen. Monsieur Bear, with 
your terrible growl and your great claws and 
191 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

your ugly teeth. No, I won't take any apolo- 
gies," and another laugh — a whole chime of 
silver bells this time — rang through the room. 
"What a pity it is," she continued after her 
opponent had left the room, "that people who 
get old forget so soon what their own youth 
has meant to them. He takes this child, puts 
a soul into her by his kindness, and then, when 
she becomes a woman, builds a fence around 
her — not for her protection but for his own 
pride. It will be so much more honorable, he 
says to himself, for the great house of Lemois 
to have one of his distinguished waifs honor- 
ably settled in an honorable home," and she 
lifted her shoulders ever so slightly. "Not a 
word, you will please note, about the girl or 
what she wants — nothing whatever of that kind. 
And he is such a dear too. But I won't have 
it, and I'm going to tell him so!" she added, 
her brown eyes blazing as her heart went out 
once more to the girl. 

All through the dinner the marquise made 
no further reference to the love affair, although 
I could see that it was still on her mind, for 
when Mignon entered and began moving about 
the room in her demure, gentle way, her lids 
192 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

lowered, her pretty head and throat aglow in 
the softened light, I saw that she was follow- 
ing her every gesture. Once, when the girl re- 
plenished her plate, the woman of birth, as if 
by accident, laid her fingers on the serving- 
woman's wrist, and then there flashed out of 
her eyes one of those sympathetic glances which 
only a tender-hearted woman can give, and 
which only another woman, no matter how 
humble her station, can fully understand. It 
was all done so quickly and so deftly that I 
alone noticed it, as well as the answering look in 
Mignon's eyes : full of such gratitude and rever- 
ence that I started lest she should betray her- 
self and thus spoil it all. 

With the coff"ee and cigarettes — madame re- 
fusing any brand but her own — "I dry every 
bit of my tobacco myself," she offered in ex- 
planation, "and roll every cigarette I smoke" 
— ^we settled ourselves in pleased expectation, 
Herbert, as usual, in the Florentine; our guest 
of honor beside a small table which Lemois 
had moved up for her comfort, and on which 
he had placed a box of matches and an ash- 
tray; Brierley stretched out on the sofa with 
a cushion at his back; Lemois on a low stool 
by the fire; Louis and I with chairs drawn 
193 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

close. Even the big back log, which had been 
crooning a song of the woods all the evening, 
ceased its hum as if to listen, while overhead 
long wraiths of tobacco smoke drifted silently, 
dimming the glint and sparkle of copper, brass, 
and silver that looked down at us from the walls. 

"And now, madame," said Herbert with a 
smile, when both Lea and Mignon had at last 
left the room, "you were good enough to say 
you had a story for us." 

"No," she answered gayly. "It is not for 
you. It is for our dear Lemois here," and she 
shook her head at him in mock reproval. "You 
are all too fine and splendid, every one of you. 
You keep houses from tumbling to pieces and 
rescue lovers and do no end of beauteous things. 
He goes about cutting and slashing heads and 
hearts, and never cares whom he hurts." 

Lemois rose from his seat, put his hand 
on his shirt-front — a favorite gesture of his — 
bowed humbly, and sat down again. 

"Yes, I mean it," she cried with a toss of her 
head, "and I have just been telling these gen- 
tlemen that I am going to put a stop to it just 
as soon as I can find out whether this young 
hero with the broken head is worth the saving, 
and that I shall decide the moment I get my 
194 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

eyes on him. Pass me my coffee, Lemois, and 
give me my full share of sugar — three lumps if 
you please — and put four into your own to 
sweeten your temper, for you will need them 
all before I get through. 

"The story I promised you is one of sheer 
stupidity, and always enrages me when I think 
of it. I have all my life set my face against 
this idiotic custom of my country of choosing 
wives and husbands for other people. In any 
walk of life it is a mistake; in some walks of 
life it is a crime. This particular instance oc- 
curred some twenty years ago in a little vil- 
lage near Beaumont, where I lived as a girl. 
Outside our far gate, leading to the best fields, 
was the house of a peasant who had made some 
thousands of francs by buying calves when they 
were very small, fattening them, and driving 
them to the great markets. He was big and 
coarse, with a red face, small, shrewd eyes, and 
a bull neck that showed puffy above his collar. 
He was loud, too, in his talk and could be 
heard above every one else in the crowd when 
the auction sales were being held in the mar- 
ket. But for his blue blouse, which reached 
to his feet, he might have been taken for one 
of his own steers. 

I9S 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"The wife was different. Although she was 
of the same peasant stock, a strain of gentleness 
and refinement had somehow crept in. In 
everything she was his opposite — a short 
woman with narrow shoulders and small waist; 
a low, soft voice, and a temper so kindly and 
even that her neighbors loved her as much as 
they hated her husband. And then there was 
a daughter — no sons — ^just one daughter. With 
her my acquaintance with the family began, 
and but for this girl I should have known noth- 
ing of what I am going to tell you. 

"It all came about through a little fete my 
father gave to which the neighbors and some 
of the land-owners were invited. You know 
all about these festivities, of course. Some- 
thing of the kind must be done every year, 
and my dear father never forgot what he owed 
his people, and always did his best to make 
them happy. On this occasion the idea came 
into my head that it would be something of a 
novelty if I arranged a dance of the young 
people with a May-pole and garlands, after one 
of the Watteau paintings in our home; some- 
thing that had never been done before, but 
which, if done at all, must be carried out prop- 
erly. So I sent to Paris to get the costumes, 
196 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

the wide hats, petticoats, and all — ^with the 
small clothes for the men — and started out to 
find my characters. One of my maids had 
told me of this girl and, as she hved nearest, 
I stopped at her house first. Well, the father 
came in and blustered out a welcome; then 
the mother, with a curtsy and a smile, wiped 
out the man's odious impression, thanking me 
for coming, and then the girl appeared — the 
living counterpart of her mother except that 
the fine strain of gentle blood had so softened 
and strengthened the daughter's personahty 
that she had blossomed into a lovely young 
person without a trace of the peasant about 
her — ^just as any new grafting improves both 
flower and fruit. I could not take my eyes 
from her, she was so gentle and modest — her 
glance reaching mine timidly, the lids trem- 
bling like a butterfly afraid to ahght; oh, a 
very charming and lovely creature — an aston- 
ishing creature, really, to be the daughter of 
such a man. Before the visit was over 1 had 
determined to make her my prima donna: she 
should lead the procession, and open the dance 
with some gallant of her choice — a promise re- 
ceived with delight by the family; the girl 
being particularly pleased, especially with the 
197 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

last part of it, and so I left them, and kept on 
my rounds through the village and outlying 
district. 

"It was a lovely summer day — in June, if 
I remember — too late for May-poles, but I 
didn't care — and long before the hour arrived 
our lawn was thronged with peasants and their 
sons and daughters, and our stables and pad- 
docks crowded with their carts and vehicles. 
My father had provided a tent where the young 
people should change their clothes, but I took 
my little maid up into my own room, and my 
femme de chambre and I dressed her at our 
leisure. 

"It is astonishing what you find underneatTi 
the rough garments worn by some of our peas- 
ants. I have often heard one of my friends — 
a figure painter — express the same surprise over 
his models. What appears in coarse cloth to 
be an ill-shaped arm turns out to be beauti- 
fully modelled when bared to the overhead 
light of a studio. So it was with this girl. 
She had the dearest, trimmest little figure, her 
shoulders temptingly dimpled, her throat and 
neck with that exquisite modelling only seen 
in a beautifully formed girl just bursting into 
womanhood. And then, too, her hair — what a 
198 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

lot of it there was when it was all combed out, 
and of so rich a brown, with a thread of gold 
here and there where the Hght struck it; and, 
more than all, her deep sapphire-blue eyes. 
Oh! — ^you cannot think how lovely they were; 
eyes that drank you all in until you were lost 
in their depths — like a well holding and re- 
freshing you. 

"So we dressed her up — leghorn hat, petti- 
coats, tiny slippers on her tiny feet — and they 
were tiny — even to her shepherdess crook — 
until she looked as if she had just stepped out 
of one of Watteau's canvases. 

"And you may be sure she had her innings! 
The young fellows went wild over her, as well 
as the older ones — and even some of our own 
gentry tried to make love to her — so I heard 
next day. When all was ready she picked out 
her own partner, as I had promised she should, 
a straight, well-built, honest-faced young peas- 
ant whom she called 'Henri' — a year or two 
her senior, and whom I learned was the son of 
a poor farmer whose land adjoined her father's^ 
but whose flocks and herds consisted of but one 
cow and a few pigs. In his pearl-gray short 
clothes and jacket, slashed sleeves, and low- 
cut shoes he looked amazingly well, and I did 
199 



THE AHM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

not blame her for her choice. Indeed she could 
not have done better, perfectly matched as they 
were in their borrowed plumes. 

"And now comes a curious thing: so puffed 
up was that big animal of a father over the 
impression the girl had made, and so proud 
was he over the offers he received shortly after 
for her hand — among them a fellow herdsman 
twenty years her senior — that he immediately 
began to put on airs of distinction. A man 
with such a daughter, he said to himself, was 
also a man of weight and prominence in the 
community; he, therefore, had certain duties 
to perform. This was his only child; more- 
over, was he not rich, being the owner of more 
than a hundred head of cattle, and did he not 
have money in the banks? Loyette — have I 
told you her name was Loyette? — Loyette 
should marry no one of the young fellows about 
her — he had other and higher views for her. 
What these views were nobody knew, but one 
thing was certain, and that was that Henri, 
whom she loved with all her heart, and who 
had danced with her around the May-pole, was 
forbidden the house. The excuse was that his 
people were not of her class; that they were 
poor, his father being . . . Oh, the same 
200 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

stupid story which has been told thousands of 
times and will continue to be told as long as 
there are big, thick-necked fathers who lay 
down the law with their sledge-hammer fists, 
and ambitious old gentlemen" — here she cut 
her eye at Lemois — "who try to wheedle you 
with their flimsy arguments — Arguments which 
they would have thrown in your face had you 
tried it on them when they themselves were 
young. The father forgot, of course — ^just as 
they all forget — that she was precisely the 
same young girl with precisely the same heart 
before the fete as shp was after it; that every 
rag on her back I had given her; that her 
triumph was purely a matter of chance — my 
going first to his house and thus finding her — 
and that on the very next day she had milked the 
cows and polished the tins just as she had done 
since she was old enough to help her mother. 

"Again that old story was repeated: the 
mother begged and pleaded; the girl drowned 
herself in tears, but the father stormed on. 
Poor Henri continued to peep over the fence 
at Loyette when she went milking, or met her 
clandestinely on the path behind the cow sheds, 
and everybody was wretched for months try- 
ing to make water run uphill. 

20I 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Then Loyette confided in me. I had started 
to walk to the village and she had seen me 
cross the broad road and had followed. Poor 
child! — I can see her now, the tears streaming 
down her cheeks as she poured out her heart: 
how she and Henri had always loved each 
other; how fine and brave and truthful he was, 
and how kind and noble: she emptying her 
heart of her most precious secret — the story of 
her first love — a story, gentlemen" — here the 
marquise's voice dropped into tones of infinite 
sweetness — "which the angels bend their ears 
to catch, for there is nothing more holy nor 
more sublime. 

"I listened, her hand in mine — we were 
about the same age and I could, therefore, the 
better understand — her pretty blue eyes like 
wet violets searching for my own — and when 
her story was all told, I comforted her as best 
I could, telling her what I firmly believed — 
that no father with a spark of tenderness in 
his heart could be obdurate for long and not to 
worry — true love like hers always winning its 
way — whereupon she dried her eyes, kissed my 
hand, and I left her. 

"What happened I do not know, for I went 
to Paris shortly after and was married myself, 
202 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

and did not return to my old home for some 
years. Then one day, in the effort to pick up 
once more the threads of my old hfe, there sud- 
denly popped into my mind Loyette's love story. 
I sent at once for one of the old servants who 
had lived with us since before I was born. 

"'And Loyette — the girl with the big ugly 
father — did he relent and did she marry the 
young fellow she was in love with ? ' 

"'No, madame,' she answered sadly, with a 
shake of the head; 'she married the cattleman, 
Marceaux, and a sad mess they made of it, for 
he was old enough then to be her father, and 
he is now half paralyzed, and goes around in a 
chair on wheels, and there are no children — and 
Loyette, who was so pretty and so happy, 
must follow him about like a dog tied to a blind 
man, and she never laughs the whole livelong 
day. That was her father's work — he made 
her do it, and now she must pay the price.' 

"'And what became of the pig of a father?' 
I had hated him before; I loathed him now. 

'"Dead; so is her mother.' 

"'And the young fellow?' 

'"He had to do his service, and was gone 
three years, and when he came back it was too 
late.' 

203 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"'Well, but why did she give in?' 
"'Don't they all have to give in at last? 
Did the husband not settle the farm on her, 
and fifty head of cattle, and the pasturage 
and bams? Is not that better for an only 
daughter than digging in the fields bending 
over washing-boards all day and breaking your 
back hanging out the clothes? How did she 
know he would be only a sick child in a chair 
on wheels — and this a year after marriage?' 
"'And what did the young fellow do?' 
"'What could he do? It was all over when 
he came back. And now he never laughs any 
more, and will look at none of the women — 
and it is a pity, for he is prosperous and can 
well take care of a wife.' 

"I had it all now, just as plain as day; they 
had tricked the girl into a marriage; had ma- 
ligned the young fellow in the same cowardly 
way, and had embittered them both for life. 
It was the same old game; I had seen it played 
a hundred times in different parts of the world. 
Often the cards are stacked. Sometimes it is 
a jewel — or a handful of them— or lands — or 
rank — or some other such make-believe. This 
trick is to be expected in the great world where 
success in life is a game, and where each gam- 
204 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

bier must look to the cards — but not here 
among our peasantry" — and again she shot her 
glance at Lemois — "where a girl grows up as 
innocent as a heifer, her nature expanding, her 
only ambition being to find a true mate who 
will help her bear the burdens her station lays 
upon her. 

"I resolved to see her for myself. If I had 
been wrong in my surmises — and it were true 
that so sweet and innocent a creature had of 
her own free will married a man twenty years 
her senior when her heart was wholly another's 
—I should lose faith in girl nature: and I have 
looked into many young hearts in my time. 
That her father — big brute as he was — ^would 
have dared force her into such an alliance with- 
out her consent I did not believe, for the 
mother would then have risen up. These Nor- 
man peasants fight for their children as a bear 
fights for her cubs — women of the right kind — 
and she was one. 

"My own father shrugged his shoulders, 
when I sought his counsel, and uttered the 
customary man-like remark: 'Better for her,, 
I expect, than hoeing beets. All she has to 
do now is to see him comfortably fixed in his 
chair — a great blessing, come to think of it, 
205 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

for she can always find him when she wants 
him.' 

"This view of the case brought me no re- 
lief, and so the next day I mounted my horse, 
took my groom, and learning that her cripple 
of a husband had bought another and a larger 
farm a few kilometres away, rode over to see 
her. 

"I shall never forget what I found. Life 
presents some curious spectacles, and the ironies 
of fate work out the unexpected. In front of 
the low door of a Norman farm-house of the 
better class sat a gray-haired, shrivelled man 
with a blanket across his knees — his face of 
that dirty, ash-colored hue which denotes dis- 
ease and constant pain. My coming made 
some stir, for he had seen me making my way 
through the orchard and had recognized my 
groom, and at his call the wife ran out to wel- 
come me. My young beauty was now a thin, 
utterly disheartened, and worn-out woman who 
looked twice her age, and on whose face was 
stamped the hall-mark of suffering and sorrow. 
The brown-gold hair, the white teeth, and deep- 
blue eyes were there, but everything else was a 
wreck. 

"When the horses were led away, and I had 
206 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

expressed my sympathy for the cripple, I drew 
her inside the house, shut the door, and took 
a chair beside her. 

"'Now tell me the whole story — not your 
suffering, nor his — I see that in your faces — 
but how it could all happen. The last time 
you talked to me we were girls together — we 
are girls now.' 

'"Madame la marquise,' she began, *I ' 

"'No, not madame la marquise,' I inter- 
rupted, taking her hand in mine; 'just one 
woman talking to another. Whose fault was 
it — ^yours or Henri's?' 

"'Neither. They lied about him; they said 
he would never come back; then, when he did 
not write and no news came of him and I 
was wild and crazy with grief, they told me 
more things of which I won't speak; and one 
of the old women in the village, who wanted 
him for her granddaughter, laughed and said 
the things were true and that she didn't mind, 
and nobody else should; and then all the time 
my father was saying I must marry the other' 
— and' she pointed in the direction of the crip- 
ple — 'and he kept coming every day, and was 
kind and sympathetic, and good to me I must 
say, and is now, and at last my heart was worn 
207 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

out — and they took me to the church, and it 
was all over. And then the next month Henri 
came back from Algiers, where he had been ill 
in the hospital, and came straight here and sat 
down in that chair over there, and looked about 
him, and then he said: "I would not have come 
home if I had known how things were; I 
would rather have been shot. I cannot give 
you all this" — and he pointed to the furniture 
— "and you did not want them when we first 
loved each other." 

"'And then he told me how many times he 
had written, and we hunted through my father's 
chest which I had brought here with me — he 
had died that year, and so had my dear mother 
— and there we found all Henri's letters tied 
together with a string, and not one of them 
opened.' 

"'What did you do.?' I asked. 

"'I went at once to my husband and told 
him everything. He burst into a great rage; 
and the two had hard words, and then the 
next day he was out in the field and the sun 
was very hot, and he was brought home, and 
has been as you see him ever since.' 

"'And where is Henri?' 

"'He is here on the farm. When the doc- 
208 



MADAME LA MARQUISE 

tor gave my husband no hope of ever being 
well again, my husband sent for him and begged 
Henri's pardon for what he had said, saying he 
wanted no one to hate him now that he could 
not live; that all Henri had done was to love 
me as a man should love a woman, and that, if 
I would be willing, Henri should take care of 
the farm and keep it for me. This was four 
years ago, and Henri is still here and my hus- 
band has never changed. When the weather 
is good, Henri puts him in his chair, the one we 
bought in Rouen, and wheels him about un- 
der the apple-trees, and every night he comes 
in and sits beside him and goes over the ac- 
counts and tells him of the day's work. Then 
he goes back home, six kilometres away, to his 
mother's, where he lives.' " 

Madame la marquise paused and shook the 
ashes from her cigarette, her head on one side, 
her eyes half-closed, a thoughtful, wholly ab- 
sorbed expression on her face. Lemois, who 
had listened to every word of the strange nar- 
rative, his gaze fastened upon her, made no 
sound, nor did he move. 

"And now listen to the rest: Two years 
later the poor cripple passed away and the 
next spring the two were married. The last 
209 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

time she came to me she brought her child 
with her — a baby in arms — but the dazzHng 
Hght of young motherhood did not shine in her 
eyes — the baby had come, and she was glad, 
but that was all. They are both alive to-day, 
sitting in the twilight — their youth gone; robbed 
of the joy of making the first nest, together — 
meeting life second-hand, as it were — content 
to be alive and to be left alone. 

"As for me, knowing the whole story, I had 
only a deep, bitter, intense sense of outrage. 
I still have it whenever I think of her wrongs. 
God is over all and pardons us almost every 
sin we commit — even without our asking, I 
sometimes think — but the men and women who 
for pride's sake rob a young girl of a true and 
honorable love have shut themselves out of 
heaven." 



2IO 



X 



IN WHICH WE ENTERTAIN A 
JAIL-BIRD 

TXT'HAT eiFect madame's story had made 
upon Lemois became at once an absorb- 
ing question. He had listened intently with 
deferential incHnation of the head, and when 
she had finished had risen from his seat and 
thanked her calmly with evident sincerity, but 
whether he was merely paying a tribute to her 
rare skill — and she told her story extremely 
well, and with such rapid changes of tones and 
gestures that every situation and character 
stood out in relief — or because he was grate- 
ful for a new point of view in Mignon's case, 
was still a mystery to us. While she was 
being bundled up by Herbert and Louis for 
her ride home, Marc had delivered himself of 
the opinion that Mignon would have her lover 
in the end; that nothing madame had ever 
tried to do had failed when once she set her 
heart and mind to work, and that the banns 
might as well be published at once. But, then, 

211 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Marc would have begun to set nets for larks 
and bought both toaster and broiler had the 
same idol of his imagination predicted an im- 
mediate fall of the skies. That his inamo- 
rata was twenty years his senior made no dif- 
ference to the distinguished impressionist; that 
Marc was twenty years her junior made not the 
slightest difference to madame — nor did Marc 
himself, for that matter. All good men were 
comrades to her — and Marc was one: further 
she never went. Her rule of life was free- 
dom of thought and action, and absolute 
deference to her whims, however daring and 
foolish. 

Nor did the marquise herself enlighten us fur- 
ther as to what she thought of Mignoii's love 
affairs or Lemois' narrow matrimonial views. 
She had become suddenly intent on having the 
smashed villa pulled uphill and set on its legs 
again, with Marc as adviser and Le Blanc's 
friend, The Architect, as director-in-chief — an 
appointment which blew into thin air that 
gentleman's determination to put into dramatic 
form the new Robinson Crusoe of which Her- 
bert had told us, with Goringe, the explorer, as 
star, the lady remarking sententiously that she 
had definite reasons for the restoration and 

212 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

wanted the work to begin at once and to con- 
tinue with all possible speed. 

This last Le Blanc told us the next day when 
he returned in madame's motor, bringing with 
him an old friend of his — a tall, sunburned, 
grizzly bearded man of fifty, with overhang- 
ing eyebrows shading piercing brown eyes, firm, 
well-buttressed nose, a mouth like a ruled line 
— so straight was it — and a jaw which used up 
one-third of his face. When they entered Her- 
bert was standing with his back to the room. 
An instant later the stranger had him firmly by 
the hand. 

"I heard you were here, Herbert," he cried 
joyously, "but could hardly believe it. By 
Jove! It's good to see you again! When was 
the last time, old man? — Borneo, wasn't it? — 
in that old shack outside the town, and those 
devils howling for all they were worth." 

Introductions over, he dropped into a chair, 
took a pipe from his pocket, and in a few min- 
utes was as much a part of the coterie as if 
we had known him all his life: his credentials 
of accomplishment, of pluck, of self-sacrifice, 
of endurance and skill were accepted at sight; 
the hearty welcome he gave Herbert, and the 
way his eyes shone with the joy of meeting 
213 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

him, completing the last and most important 
requirement on our Hst — good-fellowship. That 
he had Hved outside the restrictions of civiliza- 
tion was noticeable in his clothes, which were 
of an ancient cut and looked as if they had just 
been pulled out of a trunk where they had lain 
in creases for years, which was true, for during 
the past decade he had been acting Engineer-in- 
Chief of one section of the great dam on the 
Nile, and was now home on leave. He had, he 
told us, left London the week before, had crossed 
with his car at Dieppe, and was making a run 
down the coast by way of Trouville when he 
bumped into Le Blanc and, hearing Herbert 
was within reach, had made bold to drop in 
upon us. 

When Mignon and Lea had cleared the table, 
dinner being over, and the coffee had been 
served — and somehow the real talk always be- 
gan after the coffee — for then Lemois was with 
us — Herbert looked at The Engineer long and 
searchingly, a covetous light growing in his 
eyes — the look of a housed sailor sniffing the 
brine on a comrade's reefer just in from the 
sea — and said dryly: 

"Are you glad to get home?" 

"Yes and no. My liver had begun to give 
214 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAII^BIRD 

out and they sent me to England for a few 
months, but I shall have to go back, I'm afraid, 
before my time is up. Gets on my nerves here 
— too much sand on the axles — too much fric- 
tion and noise — such a lot of people, too, chas- 
ing bubbles. Seems queer when you've been 
away from it as long as I have. How do you 
stand it, old man?" 

Herbert tapped the table-cloth absently with 
the handle of his knife and remarked slowly : 

"I don't stand it. I lie down and let it roll 
over me. If I ever thought about it at all I'd 
lose my grip. Sometimes a longing to be again 
in the jungle sweeps over me — to feel its dan- 
gers — its security — its genuineness and free- 
dom from all shams, if you will" — and a strange 
haunting look seMed in his eyes. 

"But you always used to dream of getting 
home; I've lain awake by the hour and heard 
you talk." 

"Yes, I know," he answered rousing himself, 
"it was a battle even in those days. I would 
think about it and then decide to stay a year 
or two longer; and then the hunger for home 
would come upon me again and I'd begin to 
shape things so I could get back to England. 
Sometimes it took a year to decide — sometimes 

215 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

two or three — for you can't get rid of that kind 
of a nightmare in a minute." 

"You were different from me, Herbert," re- 
marked Le Blanc. "You went to the wilds 
because you loved them; I went because they 
locked the front and back gates on me. I 
suppose I deserved it, for nobody got much 
sleep when I was twenty. But it sounds funny 
to have you say it would take you two years 
to make up your mind whether you'd come 
home or not. It wouldn't have taken me five 
seconds." 

"Sometimes it didn't take that long," and a 
quick laugh escaped Herbert's lips as if to con- 
ceal his serious mood. "Those things depend 
on how you feel and what has started your 
thinking apparatus to working. I walked out 
of a kraal in Australia one summer's night 
when the home-hunger was on me and never 
stopped until I reached Sydney — the last hun- 
dred miles barefoot. You must have known 
about it, for I met you right after" — and he 
turned to The Engineer, who nodded in an 
amused way. "That was before we struck 
Borneo, if I remember?" 

"Why barefooted, Herbert?" asked Louis, 
hitching his chair the closer. 
216 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAII^BIRD 

"Because the soles and heels were gone and 
the uppers were all that were left." 

"Tell them about it, Herbert," remarked The 
Engineer with a smile, pulling away at his pipe. 

"Oh, if you would. Monsieur Herbert! I 
tried to tell Monsieur High-Muck about it the 
night you arrived, but Monsieur Louis' horn 
put it out of my head. It is better that he 
hears it from you" — and the old man's lip 
quivered, his face lighting up with admiration. 
Herbert was his high-priest in matters of this 
kind. 

"There is really nothing to tell," returned 
Herbert. "I was tending cattle for a herds- 
man at the time up in the hills — I and a friend 
of mine. We had both run away from our 
ships and were trying the rolling country for a 
change, when one of those irresistible, over- 
whelming attacks of homesickness seized me, 
and without caring a picayune what became 
of me, I turned short on my tracks and struck 
out for the coast. A man does that sort of 
thing sometimes. I had no money and only 
the clothes on my back, but I knew the rail- 
road was some forty miles away, and that when 
I reached it I could work my passage into civili- 
zation and from there on to London. 
217 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"The weather was warm and I slept in a 
cow shack when I found one, and in the bushes 
when they got scarce. Finally I reached the 
railroad. I had never tried stealing a ride, 
sleeping on the trucks, hiding in freight cars, 
and being put oflF time and again until the 
next town was reached — I had never tried it 
because it had never been necessary, and then 
I hated that sort of thing. But I had no ob- 
jection to asking for a lift, telling the agent or 
conductor the whole story, and I did it regu- 
larly at every station I passed on foot, only to 
get the customary oath or jeering laugh. After 
I had walked about sixty miles I came upon a 
water station known as Merton, with a goods 
train standing by. This time I asked for a 
ride on the tender. The engineer met my re- 
quest with a vacant stare — never taking his 
pipe from his mouth. The fireman was a dif- 
ferent sort of man. He not only listened to 
my story, but handed me part of the contents 
of his dinner pail wrapped up in a newspa- 
per — which I was glad to get, and told him so. 
Before the train had. gone fifty yards she was 
side-tracked for orders — ^which gave me another 
chance to get at the fireman. 'I may lose my 
job if I do,' he said, 'but I've been up against 
218 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

it myself; come around a little later; it'll be 
dark soon and something may turn up.' 

"Something did turn up. While the engi- 
neer was oiling under his engine I got a wink 
from the fireman, climbed on the tender, crept 
beneath a tarpaulin, and rooted down in the 
coal. There, tired out, I fell asleep. I was 
awakened by the whistle of the locomotive, 
and then came the slow wheeze of the cylinder 
head, and we were off. Sleeping on a hard 
plank under a car going thirty miles an hour 
is a spring mattress to lying in a pile of coal 
with lumps as big as your head grinding into 
your back. Now and then the fireman — ^not 
my particular friend, but a man who had re- 
placed him as I discovered when we whizzed 
past the light of a station — ^would ram his 
shovel within reach of my ribs — ^just missing 
me. But I didn't mind — every mile meant 
that much nearer home and less tramping in 
the heat and dust to get there. If I could man- 
age to keep hidden until we reached Sydney I 
should gain one hundred — maybe two hundred 
— miles before morning. 

"About midnight we came to a halt, followed 
by a lot of backing and filling — shunting here 
and there. The safety-valve was thrown wide 
219 



THE AHM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

open, or the exhaust, or something else, and 
suddenly the steam went out of her. Then 
came a dead silence — ^not a sound of any kind. 
Sore as I was — and every bone in my body 
ached — I wrenched myself loose, lifted the edge 
of the tarpaulin, and peeped out. The engine 
and tender were backed up against a building 
which looked like" a round-house; not a soul 
was in sight. I slid to the ground and began 
to peer around. After a moment I caught the 
swing of a lantern and heard the steps of a 
man. It was a watchman going his rounds. 

'"Warm night,' he hollered when he came 
abreast of me. He evidently took me for a 
fireman, and I didn't blame him, for I was 
black as soot — clothes, face, hands, and hair. 

"'Yes,' I said, and stopped. It wouldn't do 
to undeceive him. Then I remembered the 
name of the station where I had boarded the 
tender. 'Been hot all the way from Merton. 
How far is that from Sydney?' 

"*0h, a devil of a way!' He lifted his lan- 
tern and held it to my face. 'Say, you ain't 
no fireman — ^you're a hobo, ain't ye?' 

"I nodded. 

'"And you're p'inted for Sydney? Well, it 
serves ye right for stealin' a ride; you're 
220 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

eighty-two miles further away than when ye 
started. That locomotive is a special and got 
return orders.'" 

The Engineer threw back his head and 
roared. 

"Yes, that's it, Herbert. I remember just 
how you looked when we ran against each 
other in Sydney." 

"Not barefooted, were you, old fellow.'"' re- 
marked Louis in a sympathetic tone. "That 
was tough." 

"Barefooted? Not much!" exclaimed The 
Engineer. "He was quite a nob. That's why I 
made up to him; he was so much better dressed 
than L And do you know, Herbert, I never 
heard a word of you from that time on until I 
struck one of your statues in the Royal Acad- 
emy the other day. I never thought you'd 
turn out sculptor with medals and things. 
Thought you wanted more room to swing 
around in. This is something new, isn't it?" 

Herbert took his freshly lighted cigar from his 
mouth long enough to say, "About as new as 
your building dams. You were trying to get 
into the real-estate business when I bid you 
good-by in Sydney. Did it work?" 

"No, I got into jail instead." 

221 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Everybody stared. 

"What was it all about?" asked Herbert, 
unperturbed. 

"Stealing!" 

"Stealing!" exclaimed Le Blanc. 

"Yes. That was about it," he answered. 
"Only this time I tried to bag a government 
and got locked up for my pains. One of your 
countrymen" — and he nodded toward me — 
"was mixed up in it. By the way" — and he 
rose from his chair — "you don't mind my tak- 
ing this candle, do you.? — I've been looking at 
something in that cabinet over there all the 
evening and I can't stand it any longer. I 
may be wrong, but they look awfully like it." 

He had reached the carved triptych, and was 
holding the flame of the candle within a few 
inches of a group of tiny figures — some of Le- 
mois' most precious carvings — one the figure 
of a man with a gun. 

"Just as I thought. Prison work, isn't it. 
Monsieur Lemois ? Yes — of course it is — I see 
the tool marks. Made of soup bones. Oh, 
very good indeed — best I have ever seen. 
Where did you get this?" 

"They were made by the French prisoners 
in Moscow," answered Lemois, who had also 

222 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAII^BIRD 

risen from his seat and was now standing be- 
side him. "But how did you know?" he 
asked in astonishment. "Most of my visitors, 
if they look at them at all, think they are 
Chinese." 

"Because no one, if he can get ivory, makes 
a thing like this of bone" — and he held it up 
to our gaze — "and everybody out of jail who 
has this skill can get ivory. I've made a lot 
myself — never as fine as these — this man must 
have been an expert. I used to keep from 
going crazy by doing this sort of thing — that 
and the old dodge of taming fleas so they'd eat 
out of my hand. What a pile of good stuiF 
you have here — regular museum" — and with a 
searching, comprehensive glance he replaced 
the candle and regained his chair. 

I bent forward and touched his elbow. 

"We've entertained all sorts of people here," 
I said with a laugh, "but I think this is the 
first time we have ever had an out-and-out 
ticket-of-leave man. Do you mind telhng us 
how it happened ? " 

"No; but it wouldn't interest you. Just 
one of those fool scrapes a fellow gets into 
when he is chucked out neck and heels into 
the world." 

223 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Brierley drew his chair closer — so did Louis 
and Le Blanc. 

Herbert glanced toward his friend. "Let 
them have it, old man. We promise not to 
set the dogs on you." 

"Thanks. But it wouldn't be the first time. 
Well, all right if it won't bore you. Now let 
me think" — and he lifted his weather-bronzed 
face, made richer by the glow of the candles 
overhead, and began scratching his grizzly 
beard with his forefinger. 

"It was after you left Borneo, Herbert, that 
I came across two fellows — Englishmen — ^who 
told me of some new gold diggings on the west 
coast, and I was fool enough to join them, 
working my passage on one of the home-going 
tramp steamers. Well, we thrashed about for 
six months and landed on one of the small isl- 
ands in the Caribbean Sea — the name of which 
I forget — ^where we left the ship and hid until 
she disappeared. The gold fever was well out 
of us by that time, and, besides, I had gotten 
tired of scrubbing decks and my two fellow 
tramps of washing dishes. The port was a reg- 
ular coaling station and some other craft would 
come along; if not, we could stay where we 
were. The climate was warm, bananas were 
224 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

cheap and plenty; we were entirely fit, and — 
like many another lot of young chaps out for 
a lark — did not care a tinker's continental what 
happened. That, if you think about it, is the 
high-water mark of happiness — to be perfectly 
well, strong, twenty-five years of age, and ready 
for anything that bobs up. 

"This time it was a small schooner with a 
crew of about one hundred men, instead of the 
customary ten or twelve. A third of them 
came ashore, bought provisions and water, and 
were about to shove off to the vessel again, 
when one of my comrades recognized the mate 
as an old friend. He offered to take us with 
them, and in half an hour we had gathered to- 
gether our duds and had pushed off with the 
others. The following week we ran into a 
sheltered cove, where we began landing our 
cargo. Then it all came out: we were loaded 
to the scuppers with old muskets in cases, some 
thousand rounds of ammunition, and two small, 
muzzle-loading field-guns. There was a revo- 
lution in Boccador — one of the small South 
American republics — they have them every year 
or so — and we were part of the insurgent navy! 
If we were caught we were shot; if we got a new 
flag on top of Government House in the capital 

225 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

of San Josepho, we would have a plantation 
apiece and negroes enough to run it. It sounded 
pleasant, didn't it? 

"I'm not going into all the details — it's the 
story of the jail you want, not the revolution. 
Well, we had two weeks of tramping up to our 
waists in the swamps; three days of fighting, 
in which one of the field-guns blew off its nose, 
killing the mate; and the next thing I knew, 
my two companions and I were looking down 
the muzzles of a dozen rifles held within three 
feet of our heads. That ended it and we were 
marched into town and locked up in the com- 
mon jail — and rightly named, I tell you, for a 
filthier or more deadly hole I never got into. 
It was a square, two-story building — all four 
sides to the town — with a patio, or court, in 
the centre. Outside was a line of sentries and 
inside were more sentries and a couple of big 
dogs. 

"They put us on the ground floor with a mur- 
derous-looking chap for guard. As the place 
was packed with prisoners, we three were shoved 
into one cell. Every morning at daylight one 
or two — once six — poor devils were led out; 
the big gate was opened, and then there would 
come a rattling of rifle-shots, and when the six 
226 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAII^BIRD 

came back they were on planks with sheets 
over them. All this we could see by standing 
on each other's shoulders and looking over the 
grating. 

"Our turn came the morning of the seventh 
day. The door was unlocked and we were or- 
dered to fall in. But we didn't go through the 
big outer gate; we were led to a door across 
the yard and into a bare room where another 
murderous-looking chap, in a dirty uniform 
with shoulder-straps and a sword, sat at a 
table. On either side of him were two more 
ruffians, one with an inkstand. Not a man 
Friday of them spoke anything but Spanish. 
When we were pushed in front of his highness 
in shoulder-straps, he looked us over keenly 
and began whispering to the man with the ink. 
Then to my surprise — and before either I or 
my two friends — one of whom spoke a little 
Spanish — could utter a protest — right-about- 
face, and we were hustled back into our cell 
and locked up again. 

"For three days and nights the usual jail 
things happened: We had two meals a day — 
bone soup and a hunk of mouldy bread; the 
guard tramped in the dust outside our cell, 
while at night another took his place — the dogs 
227 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

prowling or sniffing at the crack of our door; 
at daylight the rifle-shots! 

"We had started to work for our release by 
that time, and by persistent begging got a sheet 
of paper, and, with the help of my companion, 
I wrote a letter to 'his Excellenza,' as the 
guard called his nibs, informing him that we 
were English tourists who had taken passage 
for sheer love of adventure, and demanding that 
our case be brought to the attention of the 
English consul. 

"One week passed and then a second before 
we were informed by the head jailer that there 
was no English consul, and that if there had 
been it would have made no difference, as we 
had been taken with arms in our hands, and 
that but for some inquiries put on foot by his 
Excellenza we would have been shot long ago. 

"So the hours and days dragged on and we 
had about started in to make our wills when, 
one morning after our slop coffee had been 
pushed in to us, the bolts were slid back and 
the nattiest-looking young fellow you ever laid 
your eyes on stepped inside. He was about 
twenty-four, was dressed from head to foot in 
a suit of white duck, and looked as if he had 
just cleared the deck of the royal yacht. With 
228 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

him were two slovenly looking functionaries, 
one of whom carried a note-book. The young 
fellow eyed us all three, sizing us up with the 
air of a man accustomed to that sort of thing, 
and said with an air of authority: 

" * I am the American consul. Your commu- 
nication was brought to me because your gov- 
ernment is not represented here. You're in a 
bad fix, but I'll help you out if I can. Now 
tell me all about it.' 

"Tell him about it! Why, we nearly fell on 
his neck, and before he left he had our whole 
story in his head and a lot of our letters and 
cards in his clothes. They might be of use, 
he said, in proving that we had not, by any 
means, started out to undermine his Supreme 
Highness's government. But that under fear 
of death — and he winked meaningly — ^we had 
been compelled to take up arms against the 
most illustrious republic of Boccador. 

"Nine long, weary months passed after this 
and not another human being crossed our 
threshold except the head jailer. When we 
bombarded him with questions about the fel- 
low who had passed himself off as the Ameri- 
can consul, and who had stolen our letters and 
had never shown up since — damn him! — ^we 
229 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

had all learned to speak a little Spanish by 
this time — he pretended not to hear and, his 
inspection over, locked the door behind him. 
Pretty soon we fell into the ways of all dis- 
heartened prisoners — each man following the 
bent of his nature. I warded off sickening 
despair by carving with my pocket-knife - 
which they let me keep as being too small to 
do them any harm — little figures out of the 
beef bones I found in my soup. That's how I 
came to recognize those in Monsieur Lemois' 
cabinet. When I was lucky enough to get 
hold of a knuckle bone with a rounded knob 
at the end, I made a friar with a bald head, the 
smooth knob answering for his pate. Other 
bones were turned into grotesque figures of 
men, women, and animals. These I gave 
to the sentry, who sent them to his children. 
Often he brought me small pieces of calico and 
I made dresses and trousers for them. When 
I got tired of that I trained two fleas — and 
they were plenty — to play leap-frog up my 
arm. 

"When these little diversions failed to drive 

dull care away, we passed the time cursing the 

gentleman in the immaculate cotton ducks. 

He had either lied to us, or was dead, or had 

230 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

been transferred — anyway, he had gone back 
on us and left us to rot in jail. 

"At last we determined to escape. 

"We had made that same resolution every 
day for months and had planned out half a 
dozen schemes, some of which might have been 
successful but for two dijB&culties — the double 
guard on the outside of the building and the 
two dogs in the jail-yard. There was now but 
one chance of success. We would dig a hole 
in the dirt floor clear under the wall, watch for 
a stormy night, and make a break for the town 
and the coast, where we might be able to signal 
some trading craft and so get away. 

"So we started to digging, beginning on the 
side opposite the door — our utensils being a 
sharpened bone, my pocket-knife, and a bayo- 
net which had dropped from a sentry's scab- 
bard, and which I managed to pick up on our 
exercise walk in the court-yard and conceal in 
the straw on which we slept. This straw too 
helped hide the dirt. We rammed the wisps 
up into each end of the pallets, put the exca- 
vated earth in the middle with a dusting of 
loose straw over it, and so hid our work from 
view. At the end of a month we had a hole 
under the wall large enough to wriggle in. I 
231 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

could see the daylight through the loose earth 
on the other side. Then we waited for a storm, 
the rainy season being on and thunder showers 
frequent. Two, three, four nights went by 
without a cloud; then it began to pour. We 
determined to try it just before the guards 
were changed. This was at 2 a. m. by the 
church clock. The outgoing sentry would be 
tired then and the new man not thoroughly 
awake. 

"When the hour came I crawled in head 
first, worked myself to the end of the tunnel, 
and, putting out my hands to break away the 
remaining clods of earth, came bump up against 
a piece of heavy board. There I lay trembling. 
The board could never have rolled down from 
anywhere, nor could our opening have been 
detected from the outside. 

"Somebody had placed it there on purpose! 

"I wriggled back feet foremost, whispered in 
my companions' ears what I had found, and we 
all three sat up the rest of the night wondering 
what the devil it meant. When morning broke, 
the head jailer came in. I noticed instantly a 
change in his manner. Instead of a few per- 
functory questions, he gave a cursory glance 
around the cell, his eyes resting on the pile of 
232 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAII^BIRD 

straw, and turning short on his heel left with- 
out a word. 

"There was no question now but we were 
suspected, so we held a council of war and de- 
termined to keep quiet — at least for some nights. 
What was up we didn't know, but at all events 
it was best to go slow. So we stuffed most of 
the dirt back in the hole and waited — our ears 
open to every sound, our teeth chattering. You 
get pretty nervous in jail — especially when you 
have about made up your mind that the next 
hour is your last. 

"We didn't wait long. 

"That afternoon the bolts were slid back and 
the head jailer, who had never before appeared 
at that hour, stood in the doorway. 

"I thought right away that it was all over 
with us; that we were discovered and that we 
were either to be shot or moved to another cell 
— I really didn't care which, for instant death 
could not be much worse than lingering in a 
South American prison until we were gray- 
bearded and forgotten. 

"The jailer stepped inside, half closed the 
door, and made this announcement: 

"'The American consul is outside and wants 
to see you.' Then he stepped out, leaving the 
door open. 

233 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"They have a way of coaxing you to escape 
down in that country and then fiUing you full 
of lead. It's justifiable murder when some- 
times a trial and conviction might raise un- 
pleasant international questions. We all three 
looked at each other and instantly decided not 
to swallow the bait. The American consul 
dodge had been tried when they wanted to get 
legal possession of our letters. So it isn't sur- 
prising that we didn't believe him. Then, to 
my astonishment, I caught through the crack 
of the door a suit of white duck, and the natty 
young man stepped in. 

"'I've been down the coast,' he began as 
chipper as if he was apologizing for not having 
called after we had invited him to dinner, 'or 
I should have been here before. I have a per- 
mit from the governor to come as often as I 
like, or as often as you would be glad to see me. 
I must tell you, however, that I am pledged to 
keep faith with the authorities, and it is their 
confidence in me which has gained me this priv- 
ilege. I can bring you nothing to eat or drink, 
no tools or knickknacks or any bodily com- 
forts. I can only bring myself. This I have 
told his Excellenza, who has his orders, and 
who understands.' Then he turned to the 
jailer. 'Get me a stool and I will stay a while 
234 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

with them. You can leave the door open; I 
will be responsible that none of them attempts 
to escape.' 

"When the jailer was out of hearing, he 
passed around cigarettes, lighted his own, and 
started in to tell us the news of the day : what 
was going on in town and country; how the 
revolution had been put down; how many 
insurgents had been shot, exiled, or sent to 
horrible prisons — ^worse than ours, which, he 
informed us, was really only a sort of police 
station and unsafe except for the dogs and the 
guards, who were picked men and who had 
never been known to neglect their duty. Only 
the year before five men had attempted to dig 
their way out and had been shot as they were 
climbing the outside wall — rather dispiriting 
talk for us, to say the least, but it was talk, 
and that was what we hungered for, especially 
as his spirits never flagged. 

"All this was more or less entertaining, and 
he would have had our entire confidence but for 
two things which followed, and which we could 
not understand. One was that he always chose 
rainy or stormy nights for his subsequent visits, 
dropping in on us at all hours, when we least 
expected him; and the other that he never re- 
235 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

ferred to what was being done for our release. 
That he would not discuss. 

"By and by we began to grow uneasy and 
suspect him. One of the men insisted that he 
was too damned polite to be honest, and that 
the American consul yam was a put-up job. 
Anyway, he was getting tired of it all. It 
would take him but half an hour to dig the 
loose earth out of the tunnel, and he was going 
to begin right away if he went at it alone. 

"We at once fell to, working like beavers, 
digging with everything we had — our fingers 
bleeding — until we had cleaned out the dirt 
to the plank. Then we crawled back and 
waited for the consul's customary visit. After 
that was over — no matter how long it lasted — 
we'd make the dash. 

"He came on the minute; and this time, to 
our intense disgust, brought his guitar — said he 
thought we might like a little music — and with- 
out so much as by-your-leave opened up with 
negro melodies and native songs, the instru- 
ment resting in the hollow of his knee, one leg 
crooked over the other, a cigarette stuck tight 
to his lower lip. 

"Hour after hour went by and still he sang 
on — French, German, Italian — anything and 
236 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

everything — rolling out the songs as if we had 
been so many classmates at a college supper. 
Charming, of course, had we not had a hole 
behind us and freedom within sight. 

"Hints, yawns, even blunt proposals to let 
us go to bed, had no effect. Further than 
these we dared not go. We were afraid to 
turn him out bodily lest we should be sus- 
pected of trying to get rid of him for a pur- 
pose. To have let him into the secret was 
also out of the question. Better wait until he 
was gone. 

"Would you believe it, he never left until 
broad daybreak, his confounded irritating cheer- 
fulness keeping up to the last, even to his toss- 
ing his fingers to us in good-by, quite as he 
might have done to his sweetheart. 

"At eight o'clock on that same morning, not 
more than two hours after he had left, there 
came a bang at the door with a sword-hilt, the 
bolts were drawn, and we were marched into 
the court-yard between five soldiers in com- 
mand of a sergeant. Then came the orders to 
fall in, and we were pushed into the same room 
wheje, nearly a year before, we had been ex- 
amined by the ruffian in shoulder-straps and 
sent back to our cell. 

237 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"And here I must say that, for the first time 
since our capture, I lost all hope. Five men for 
three of us, and two of the cartridges blank ! 

"The squad closed in and we were lined up 
in front of a table before another black-haired, 
greasy, villanous-looking reptile who read the 
death-warrant, as near as I could make out — 
he spoke so fast. Then he rose from his seat, 
bowed stiffly, and left the room. Next the ser- 
geant saluted us, ordered his men to fall in, 
and left the room. Then the jailer stepped 
forward, shook our hands all around, and left 
the room. 

"We were free! 

"Outside, in the broad glare of the scorch- 
ing sun, his boyish face in a broad grin, stood 
the consul, looking as if he had just stepped 
out of a bandbox. 

"'I am sorry you found me such a bore last 
night,' he said, gay and debonair as an old 
beau at a wedding, 'but there was nothing 
else to do. If I'd gone home earlier and let 
you crawl out of that hole, you would have 
been shot to a dead certainty. I knew a 
month ago you were at work on it, and when 
it was nearly finished I got permission to 
drop in on you. The plank that you ran up 
238 



WE ENTERTAIN A JAIL-BIRD 

against I had put there with the help of the 
jailer. It was meant to keep you quiet un- 
til my mail got in. I was helpless, of course, 
to assist you until it did, being my govern- 
ment's representative. It arrived yesterday, 
informing me that our State Department has 
taken up your cases with your government and 
has entered a formal protest. Now all of you 
come over to the consulate, and let me see 
what I can do to fix you out with some clothes 
and things. 

"'After that we'll have breakfast.'" 



239 



XI 



IN WHICH THE HABITS OF CERTAIN 
GHOSTS, GOBLINS, BANDITS, AND 
OTHER OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 
ARE DULY SET FORTH 

'npHE Engineer's story whetted every one's 
appetite for more. Lemois, hoping to 
further inspire him, left his chair, crossed the 
room, and began searching through the old 
fifteenth-century triptych to find some object 
of interest which would start him to talking 
again as entertainingly as had the carved soup 
bones from the Moscow prison. When he re- 
occupied his seat he held in his hand a small 
statuette in terra-cotta. This he placed on the 
table where the light fell full upon it. 

"You overlooked this, I am afraid," he said, 
addressing The Engineer. "It is one of the 
most precious things I own. It is a portrait 
of Madame de Rabutin-Chantal, the grand- 
mother of Madame de Sevigne." The Sevi- 
gne family were a favorite topic with the old 
gentleman, and anything pertaining to them of 
240 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

peculiar interest to him. "You will note, I am 
sure. Monsieur Herbert, the marvellous carv- 
ing especially in the dress and about the neck." 

Before Herbert could answer, Louis craned 
his head and a disgusted look overspread his 
face. "I hope," he said, "she didn't look Hke 
that, Lemois — squatty old party with a snub 
nose." 

Herbert, ignoring Louis' aside, reached over 
and took the little image in his fingers. 

"Squatty or not, Louis, it is an exquisite 
bit — modern Tanagra, really. Seventeenth cen- 
tury, isn't it, Lemois?" 

Lemois nodded. If he had heard Louis' re- 
mark he gave no sign of the fact. 

"Yes," continued Herbert, "and wonderfully 
modelled. We can't do these things now — not 
in this way" — and he passed it to The Engi- 
neer, who turned it upsidedown, as if it were 
a teacup, glanced at the bottom in search of 
its mark, and without a word handed it back. 

Lemois replaced the precious object in the 
triptych, his mind still filled with his favor- 
ite topic, and, turning suddenly, wheeled a 
richly upholstered chair from a far corner into 
the light. 

"And here is another relic of Madame Se- 
241 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

vigne, monsieur. This is madame's own chair; 
the one she always used when she stopped 
here, sometimes for days at a time, on her way 
to her country-seat, Les Rochers. The room 
which she occupied, and in which she wrote 
many of her famous letters, is just over our 
heads. If monsieur will shift his seat a little 
he can see the very spot in which she sat." 

But The Engineer neither shifted his seat nor 
rose to the bait. None of the small things of 
past ages appealed to him. Even mummies 
and the spoil of coffins three thousand years 
old — and he had inspected many of them — 
failed to stir him. It was what was built over 
them, and the brains and power that hoisted 
the stones into place, as well as the forces of 
wind and water — the song of the creaking crane 
— those were the things that thrilled him. 
That Herbert, after his career in the open, had 
contented himself with a few tools and a mass 
of clay was what had most surprised him when 
he came upon his statues in the Royal Academy. 

So he kept silent until what Louis called the 
"bric-a-brac moment" had passed — such dis- 
cussion often occurring whenever Lemois felt 
he had a new audience. Gradually the talk 
drifted into other channels. Mistaken identity 
242 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

and the injustice of convictions on circumstan- 
tial evidence were gone into, The Engineer re- 
calling some of his own errors in dealing with 
his men in Egypt. At this Le Blanc, wandering 
slightly from the main topic, gave an account 
of a mysterious woman in white who on certain 
nights when the moon was bright used to de- 
scend the wide staircase of a French chateau 
which he often visited, the apparition being 
the ghost of a beautiful countess who had been 
walled up somewhere below stairs by a jealous 
husband, and who took this mode of publish- 
ing her wrongs to the world. Le Blanc had 
seen her himself, first at the head of the great 
staircase and then as she crept slowly down 
the steps and disappeared through the solid 
wall to the left of the baronial fireplace. His 
hostess, who affected not to believe in such 
uncanny mysteries, tried to persuade him it 
was merely a shaft of moonlight stencilled on 
the white wall, but Le Blanc scouted the ex- 
planation and was ready to affirm on his word 
of honor that she looked at him out of her 
great, round, beseeching eyes, and would, he 
felt assured, have spoken to him had not one 
of the servants opened a door at the moment 
and so scared her away. 
243 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

I told of a somewhat similar experience in 
which a strong-minded EngHshwoman, who 
laughed at ghosts and all other forms of un- 
savory back numbers, and a bishop of dis- 
tinction were mixed up. There was a haunted 
room in the Devonshire country house that 
no one dared occupy. Another white figure 
prowled here, but whether man or woman, no 
one knew. That it was quite six feet high and 
broad in proportion, and had at various times 
scared the wits out of several nervous and semi- 
hysterical females who had passed the night 
between the sheets, all agreed. As it was the 
week-end, there were a goodly number of vis- 
itors and the house more or less crowded. 
When the haunted room was mentioned, even 
the bishop demurred — preferring to take the 
one across the corridor — he being a frequent 
visitor and knowing the lay of the land. The 
strong-minded young woman, however, jumped 
at the chance. She had all her life been hop- 
ing to see a ghost and, in order to allow his or 
her ghostship free entrance, had left the door of 
the haunted room unlocked when she got into 
bed. Despite her screwed-up courage she began 
to get nervous, and when she heard the door 
ereak on its hinges and felt the cold, cFammy 
244 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

air of the corridor on her cheek, she slid down 
off her pillow and ducked her head under the 
sheet. Then, to her horror, she felt the blan- 
ket slowly slipping away and, peering out, was 
frozen stiff to see a tall figure, dressed in white, 
standing at the foot of her bed, its long, skinny 
fingers clutching at the covering. Without even 
a groan she passed promptly into a fit of un- 
consciousness, known as a dead faint, where, 
with only a sheet over her, she lay until the 
cold woke her. She left by the early coach 
and believes to this day that she would have 
been strangled had she offered the slightest pro- 
test. Nor did her hostess's letter, covering a 
full explanation, satisfy her. "It was not a 
ghost you saw, my dear, but the bishop, who 
wanted an extra blanket, and who jumped out 
of bed in search of one, and into your room, 
thinking it empty. It's a mercy you didn't 
scream, for then the situation could never have 
been explained — better say nothing about it, 
or, if you do — stick to its being a ghost." 

While these and other yarns were sent spin- 
ning around the table, Louis had cut in, of 
course, with all sorts of asides — some whispers 
behind his hand to his next neighbor — some 
squibs of criticism exploded without rhyme or 
245 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

reason in our midst — all jolly and diverting, 
but nothing approaching a story short or long. 

My own and Herbert's efForts to draw him 
out into something sustained brought only — 
"Don't know any yarns" and "Never had 
anything happen to me" — followed at last by — 
"The only time I was ever in a tight place was 
when I was sketching in Perugia; then I jumped 
through the window and took most of the sash 
with me." 

"Let's have it!" we all cried in one breath. 
No one was so lively and entertaining once we 
got him started. 

"That's all there is to it. They had locked 
the door on me— three of them — and when the 
back of the chair gave out — I was swinging it 
around my head — I made a break for out-of- 
doors." 

"Oh! — go on — go on, Louis!" came the 
chorus. 

"No, I'd rather listen to you men. I haven't 
been tattooed in the South Seas, nor half mur- 
dered rounding Cape Horn. I'm just a plain 
painter, and my experience is limited, and my 
three Perugian villains were just three dirty 
Italians, one of whom was the landlord who 
had charged me five prices for my meal, and 
246 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

tried to hold me up until I paid it — only a vul- 
gar brawl, don't you see? The landlord had 
his head in splints when I passed him the next 
day." 

"You were lucky to escape," said The En- 
gineer. "They have a way of knifing you 
while you are asleep. I had a friend who just 
got out of one of those Italian dives with his 
life." 

"Yes, that was why I was swinging the 
chair. Hard for any three men to get at you 
if its legs and back hold out. Of course a fel- 
low can sneak up behind you with a knife and 
then you — By Jingo ! — come to think of it, I 
can tell you a story! It just popped into my 
head. You have brought it all back" — and he 
nodded to our guest — " about the closest shave 
— so I thought at the time — that I ever had in 
my life. Your ghost stories don't hold a can- 
dle to it — stealthy assassin — intended victim 
sound asleep — miraculous escape ! — Oh ! a blood- 
curdler! — I was scared blue." 

Everybody shifted their chairs and craned 
their heads to watch Louis' face the better, 
overjoyed that he had at last wakened up. 
Louis scared blue — and he a match for any 
five men — meant a tale worth hearing. 
247 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"It was the summer I made those studies of 
mountain brooks flowing out of the glaciers — 
you remember them, Herbert ? Anyway, I was 
across the Swiss border, and in a ragged Italian 
town dumped down on the side of a hill as if 
it had been spilt from a cart — one of those 
sprawled-out towns with a white candle of a 
campanile overtopping the heap. The dili- 
gence, about sunup, had dropped me at the 
exact spot with my traps, and was hardly out 
of sight before I had started to work, and I 
kept it up all day, pegging away like mad, as 
I always do when a subject takes hold of me — 
and this particular mountain brook was chok- 
ing the life out of me, with lots of deep greens 
and transparent browns all through it, and the 
creamy froth of a glass of beer floating on the 
top. 

"When the sun began to sink down behind 
the mountains I realized that it was about 
time to find a place to sleep. I was at work 
on a 40 X 30 — rather large for out-doors — and, 
as it would take me several days, I had ar- 
ranged with a goatherd — ^who lived in a slant 
with stones enough on its roof to keep it from 
being blown into space — to let me store my 
wet canvas and my palette and box under its 
248 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

supports. I'd have bunked in with the goats 
if I'd had anything to cover me from the cold 
— and it gets pretty cold there at night. Then 
again I knew from experience that a goat- 
herd's sour bread and raw onions were not fiUing 
at any price. What I really wanted was two 
rooms in some private house, or over a wine- 
shop or village store, with a good bed and a 
place where I could work in bad weather. I 
had found just such a place the summer before, 
on the Swiss side of the mountains, belonging 
to an old woman who kept a cheap grocery 
and who gave me for a franc a day her two 
upper rooms — and mighty comfortable rooms 
they were, and with a good north light. So I 
hung the wet canvas where the goats couldn't 
lick off my undertones, shouldered my knap- 
sack, and started downhill to the village. 

"I found that the red-tiled houses followed 
a tangle of streets, no two of them straight, 
but all twisting in and out with an eye on the 
campanile, and so I struck into the crooked- 
est, wormed my way around back stoops, water 
barrels, and stone walls with a ripening pump- 
kin here and there lolling over their edges, 
and reached the church porch just as the bell 
was ringing for vespers. When you want to 
249 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

get any information in an Italian village, you 
go to the priest, and if he is out, or busy, or 
checking oiF some poor devil's sins — and he has 
plenty of it to do — then hunt up the sacristan. 
"There must have been an extra load of pec- 
cadilloes on hand that night, for I didn't find 
his reverence, nor the sacristan, nor anybody 
connected with the church. What I did find 
was a chap squatting against one side of the 
door with a tray on his lap filled with little 
medals and rosaries — and a most picturesque- 
looking chap he was. His feet were tied up in 
raw hides; his head bound in a red cotton hand- 
kerchief, over which was smashed a broad- 
brimmed sombrero; his waist was gripped with 
another to match; his lank body squeezed into 
a shrunken blue jacket, and his shambly legs 
wobbled about in yellow breeches. The som- 
brero shaded two cunning, monkey eyes, a 
hooked nose, a wavering mouth, and a beard 
a week old. It was his smile, though, that 
tickled my funny-bone, and this happened 
when he held up the tray for my inspection — 
one of those creepy, oily smiles that spread 
slowly over his dirty, soapy face, like the swirl 
of oil and turpentine which floats over a basin 
of suds when you wash your brushes. 
250 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

"Not a very inviting person; — a loafer, a laz- 
zaroni, a dead-beat of a dago, really — and yet 
my heart warmed to him all the same when 
he answered me with enough French sand- 
wiched between his 'o's' and *i's' to help out 
my bad Italian. What finally trickled from 
his wrinkled lips was the disappointing an- 
nouncement that no hostelry at all worthy of 
the Distinguished Signore existed in the village, 
nor was there money enough in the place for 
any one of the inhabitants to have a surplus of 
anything — rooms especially — but there was— 
here the oily smile overran the soap-suddy face 
— a most excellent casino kept by an equally 
excellent citizen where travellers were wont to 
stay overnight; that it was up a back street — 
they were all 'back' so far as I had seen — and 
that, if the Distinguished Signore would permit, 
he would curtail the sale of his religious relics 
long enough to conduct his D. S. to the very 
door. 

"So we started, the vendor of 'helps to 
piety' ahead and I following behind, my knap- 
sack over my shoulder. I soon discovered that 
if the casino was up a back street he was going 
a long way round to reach it. First he dived 
into an alley behind the mouldy, plaster-pock- 
251 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

marked church — the candle-stick of the cam- 
panile — ducked under an archway — ' sotto por- 
tico,' he called it — opened out into a field, 
struck across a little bridge into another street 
— hardly a soul about, nothing alive — nothing 
except dogs and children — all of which he ex- 
plained was a short cut. For some time his 
dodging made no impression on me; then the 
way he rounded the corners and hugged the 
shadowed side of the street, away from the few 
dim lamps, set me to wondering as to his in- 
tentions. What the devil did he mean by pick- 
ing out these blind alleys ? He must have seen 
that I was no tenderfoot or tourist who had 
lost his way. 

"With this I began to fix certain landmarks 
in my memory in case I had to make my way 
back alone. There was no question now in my 
mind as to the town's character. Half the mur- 
ders and hold-ups in the large cities are con- 
cocted in these villages, and this had rascality 
stamped all over it. Every corner I turned 
looked more forbidding than the last — every 
street seemed to end in a trap — the kind of 
street a scene-painter tries to produce when he 
has a murder up a back alley to provide for the 
third act. And crooked ! — well, the tracks of a 
252 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

bunch of fishworms crawling out from under 
a brick were straight compared to it. When 
I at last protested — ;for I was getting ravenous 
and I must say a trifle uneasy — the beggar 
bowed low enough for me to see the tail of his 
jacket over his sombrero, and gave as a reason 
that any other route would have greatly fa- 
tigued the signore, all of which he must have 
known was a lie. The fact was that if I had 
known how to get out of the tangle, I would 
have lifted him by the scruiF of his neck and 
the slack of his trousers and dropped him into 
the first convenient hole. 

"When he did come to a halt I found my- 
self before a low two-story ruin of a house — 
almost the last house in the village, and on the 
opposite edge from that which I had entered 
on my way to the church. It was evidently a 
common road house, the customary portico 
covered with grape-vines and a square room 
on the ground floor, containing one or more 
tables. In the rear, so I discovered later, was 
a dreary yard corralling a few scraggly trees — 
one overhanging a slanting shed under which 
the cooking was done — and below this tree an 
assortment of chairs and tables under an arbor, 
vhere a bottle of wine and a bit of cheese or 
253 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

bunch of grapes were served when the sun was 
hot. 

"It was now quite dark, and my guide had 
some difficulty in getting his fingers on the 
latch of the garden gate. When it swung open 
I followed up a short path and found myself in 
a square room which was lighted by a single 
lamp. Under this sat another oily Italian, in 
his shirt-sleeves, eating from an earthen bowl. 
Not a picturesque-looking chap at all, but a 
fat, swarthy lump of a man with small, restless 
eyes, stub nose, and flabby lips — one of those 
fellows you think is fast asleep until you catch 
him studying you from under his eyebrows, 
and begin to look out for his knife. The only 
other occupant of the room was a woman who 
was filling his glass from a straw-covered flask 
— a thin, flat-bosomed woman who stooped 
when she walked, and who sneaked a glance at 
me now and then from one side of her nose. 
I might better have slept in the slant and 
bunked in with the goats. 

"My guide bent down and whispered a word 
in his ear; the man jurnped up — looked me all 
over — a boring, sizing-up look — like a farmer 
guessing the weight of a steer — bowed grandil- 
oquently, and with an upward flourish of his 
254 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

hand put his house, his fortune, and his future 
happiness at my feet. There were bread and 
wine, and cheese and grapes; .and there were 
also eggs, and it might be a shce of pork. As 
for chicken — he would regret to his dying day 
that none was within his reach. Would I 
take my repast in the house at the adjoining 
table, or would I have a lamp lighted in the 
arbor and eat under the trees? 

"I preferred the lamp, of course, under the 
trees; picked up the flask of wine, poured out 
a glass for my guide, which he drank at a gulp, 
and handed him a franc for his trouble. The 
woman gave a sidelong glance at the coin and 
followed him out into the garden; there the 
two stood whispering. On her return, while 
she passed close enough to me to graze my 
arm, she never once raised her eyes, but kept 
her face averted until she had hidden herself 
in the kitchen. 

"I had selected the garden for two reasons: 
I wanted the air and I wanted to know some- 
thing more of my surroundings. What I saw 
— and I could see now the more clearly, for the 
moon had risen over the mountain — ^were two 
rear windows on the second floor, their sills 
level with the sloping shed, and a tree with its 

255 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

branches curved over its roof. This meant 
ventilation and a view of the mountains at 
sunrise — always a delight to me. It also meant 
an easy escape out the window, over the roof, 
and down the tree-trunk to the garden, and so 
on back to the goatherd if anything unusual 
should happen. That, however, could take 
care of itself. The sensible thing to do was to 
eat my supper, order my coffee to be ready at 
six o'clock, go to bed in one of these rear rooms, 
and get back to my work before the heat be- 
came intense. 

"All this was carried out — that is, the first 
part of it. I had the rear room, the one I had 
picked out for myself, not by my choice but 
by his, the landlord selecting it for me; it 
would be cooler, he said, and then I could 
sleep with my window open, free from the 
dust which sometimes blew in the front win- 
dows when the wind rose — and it was rising 
now, as the signore could hear. Yes, I should 
be called at six, and my coffee would be ready 
— and 'may the good God watch over your 
slumbers, most Distinguished of Excellencies.* 

"This comforting information was imparted 
as I followed him up a break-neck stair and 
down a long, narrow corridor, ending in a small 
256 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

hall flanked by two bedroom doors. The first 
was mine — and so was the candle which he now 
placed in my hand — and 'will your Excellency 
be careful to see that it is properly blown out 
before your Excellency falls asleep?' and so I 
bade him good-night, pushed in the door, held 
the sputtering candle high above my head, and 
began to look around. 

"It wouldn't have filled your soul with joy. 
Had I not been tired out with my day's work 
I would have called him back, read the riot 
act, and made him move in some comforts. 
The only things which could be considered fur- 
niture were a heavy oaken chest and a soHd 
wooden bed — a box of a bed with a filling of 
feathers supporting two hard pillows. And 
that was every blessed thing the room con- 
tained except a toy pitcher and basin decorat- 
ing the top of the chest; a white cotton curtain 
stretched across the lower sash of the single 
window; a nail for my towel, a row of wooden 
pegs for my clothes, and a square of looking- 
glass which once had the measles. Not a chair 
of any kind, no table, no wash-stand. This was 
a place in which to sleep, not sit nor idle in. 
Off with your clothes and into bed — and no 
growling. 

257 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"I walked to the open window, pushed aside 
the cotton curtain, and looked out on the slop- 
ing shed and overhanging tree, and the garden 
below, all clear and distinct in the light of the 
moon. I could see now that the tree had either 
prematurely lost its leaves or was stone dead. 
The branches, too, were bent as if in pain. 

"The correct drawing of trees, especially of 
their limbs and twig ends, has always been a 
fad of mine, and the twistings of this old scrag 
were so unusual, and the tree itself so gnarled 
and ugly, that I let my imagination loose, won- 
dering whether, like the villagers, it was suffer- 
ing from some unconfessed sin, and whether 
fear of the future and the final bonfire, which 
overtakes most of us sooner or later, was not 
the cause of its writhings. With this I blew 
out the candle and crawled into bed, where I 
lay thinking over the events of the evening 
and laughing at myself for being such a first- 
class ass until I fell asleep. 

"How long I slept I do not know, but when I 
woke it was with a start, all my faculties about 
me. What I heard was the sound of steps 
on the shed outside my window — creaking, 
stealthy steps as of a man's weight bending the 
supports of the flimsy shed. I raised myself 
258 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

cautiously on my elbow and looked about me. 
The square of moonlight which had patterned 
the floor when I first entered the room was 
gone, although the moon was still shining. This 
showed me that I had slept some time. I no- 
ticed, too, that the wind had risen, although 
very little seemed to penetrate the apartment, 
the curtains only flopping gently in the draught. 

"I lay motionless, hardly breathing. Had I 
heard aright — or was it a dream ? Again came 
the stealthy tread, and then the shadow of a 
hand crept across the curtain. This sent me 
sitting bolt upright in bed. There was no ques- 
tion now — some deviltry was in the air. 

"I slid from under the cover, dropped to the 
floor, flattened myself to the matting, worked 
my body to the window-sill, and stood listen- 
ing. He must have heard me, for there came 
a sudden halt and a quick retreat. Then all 
was silent. 

" I waited for some minutes, reached up with 
one hand and gently lowered the sash a foot or 
more, leaving room enough for me to throw it 
up and spring out, but not room enough for 
him to slide in without giving me warning. If 
the brute tried it again I would paste myself to 
the wall next the sash where I could see him, 
259 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

and he not see me, and as he ducked his head 
to crawl in I'd hit him with all my might; 
that would put him to sleep long enough for 
me to dress, catch up my traps, and get away. 

"Again the step and the shadow. This time 
he stopped before he reached the window-sill. 
He had evidently noticed the difference in the 
height of the sash. Then followed a hurried 
retreating footstep on the roof. I craned my 
head an inch or more to see how big he was, 
but I was too late — he had evidently dropped 
to the garden below. 

"I remained glued to the window-jamb and 
waited. I'd watch now for his head when he 
pulled himself up on the roof. If it were the 
lumpy landlord, the best plan was to plant the 
flat of my boot in the pit of his stomach — that 
would double him up like a bent pillow. If it 
was the brigand with the rosaries, or some of 
his cut-throat friends, I would try something 
else. I had no question now that I had been 
enticed here for the express purpose of doing 
me up while I was asleep. The mysterious way 
in which I had been piloted proved it; so did 
my guide's evident anxiety to avoid being seen 
by any of the inhabitants. Then there bobbed 
up in my mind the cool, sizing-up glance of the 
260 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

landlord as he looked me over. This clinched 
my suspicions. I was in for a scrap and a 
lively one. If there were two of them, I'd give 
them both barrels straight from the shoulder; 
if there were three or more, I'd fight my way 
out with a chair, as I had done at Perugia. 

"With this I came to a sudden halt and 
moved to the middle of the room. There I 
stood, straining my eyes in the dim light, hop- 
ing to find something with which to brain the 
gang should they come in a bunch. I took 
hold of the bed and shook it — the posts and 
back were as solid as a cart body. The chest 
was worse — neither of them could be whirled 
around my head as a club, as I had used the 
chair at Perugia. Next I tried the door, and 
found it without lock or bolt — in fact it swung 
open as noiselessly and easily as if it had been 
greased. The toy pitcher and basin came next 
— too small even to throw at a cat. It was a 
case, then, of bare fists and the devil take the 
hindmost. 

"With this clear in my mind, I laid the pitcher 
on the floor within an inch of the door, so that 
the edge would strike it if opened, and again 
raised the window high enough for me to jump 
through. I could, of course, have dragged the 
261 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

chest across the door, as a girl would have done, 
put the basin and pitcher on top, and shoved 
the head-board of the bed against the window- 
sash — but this I was ashamed to do; and then, 
again, the whole thing might be a blooming 
farce — one I would laugh over in the morning. 

"The question now arose whether I should 
get into my clothes, walk boldly down the cor- 
ridor, and make a break through the kitchen 
and square room, with the risk of being stabbed 
in the garden, or whether I should stick it out 
until morning. Inside, I could choose my 
fighting ground; outside was a different thing. 
Then, again, daylight was not far off. 

"I decided to hold the fort; slipped into my 
clothes — all but my coat — packed my knapsack, 
laid the basin within striking distance of the 
pitcher, placed the candle and matches close to 
my hand, stretched myself on the bed, and, 
strange as it may seem to you, again dropped 
off to sleep; only to find myself again sitting 
bolt upright in bed, my heart pounding away 
like a trip-hammer, my ears wide open. 

"More footsteps! — this time in the corridor. 

I slid out of bed, crept to the door, and pulled 

myself together. When the pitcher and basin 

came together with a clink, he would get it be- 

262 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

hind the ear — all at once — ker-chiink! He was 
so close now that I heard his fingers feeling 
around in the dark for the knob. A steady, 
gentle push with his hand near the key-hole, 
and he could then steal in without waking me. 
Whether he smelt me or not I do not know, for 
I made no sound — not even with my breath — 
but he came to a dead halt, backed away, rose 
to his feet and tiptoed down the corridor. 

"That settled all sleep for the night, and it 
was just as well, for the day was breaking — 
first the gray, pallid light, then the yellow, and 
then the rose tint. Nothing like a sunrise to 
put a fellow's ghosts to flight. So I picked up 
the basin and pitcher, unhooked my towel, had 
a wash, finished dressing, leaned out of the 
window for a while watching the rising sun 
warm up the little snow peaks one after an- 
other, and, shouldering my trap, started along 
the corridor and so on downstairs. 

"The pot-bellied lump of a scoundrel was 
waiting for me in the square room. He gave 
me the same keen, scrutinizing look with which 
he had welcomed me the night before. This 
time it began with my hair and ended at my 
boots, which were still muddy from the tramp 
of the previous evening. 
263 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"'I am sorry, your Excellency,' he said, 'but 
if you had left your shoes outside your door 
I could have polished them; I was afraid of 
disturbing you or I should have hunted for 
them inside.'" 

Louis, as he finished, settled his big shoul- 
ders back in the chair until it creaked with his 
weight, and ran his eye around the table waiting 
for the explosion which he knew would fol- 
low. All we could do was to stare helplessly in 
his face. Le Blanc, who hadn't drawn a full 
breath since the painter began, found his voice 
first. 

"And he didn't intend cutting your throat?" 
he roared indignantly. 

"No, of course not — I never said he did. I 
said I was scared blue, and I was — real indigo. 
Oh! — an awful night — hardly got an hour's 
sleep." 

" But what about the fellow on the shed, and 
his footsteps, and the shadow of the hand?" 
demanded Brierley, wholly disappointed at the 
outcome of the yarn. 

"There was no fellow, Brierley, and no foot- 
steps." This came in mild, gentle tones, as if 
the hunter's credulity were something surpris- 
264 



HABITS OF OBJECTIONABLE PERSONS 

ing. "I thought you understood. It was the 
scraping of the dead tree against the roof of 
the shed that made the creaking noise; the 
hand was the shadow cast by the end of a 
bunched-up branch swaying in the wind. The 
same thing occurred the next night and on 
every moonlight night for a week after — as long 
as I stayed." 

"And what became of the soap-suddy brig- 
and with the rosaries?" inquired The Engineer 
calmly, looking at Louis over the bowl of his 
pipe, a queer smile playing around his lips. 

"Oh, a ripping good fellow," returned Louis 
in the same innocent, childlike tone — "a real 
comfort; best in the village outside the land- 
lord and his wife, with whom I stayed two 
weeks. Brought me my luncheon every day 
and crawled up a breakneck hill to do it, and 
then kept on two miles to mail my letters." 

"Well, but Louis," I exclaimed, "what a 
mean, thin, fake of a yarn; no point, no plot — 
no nothing but a string of " 

"Yes, High-Muck, quite true — no plot, no 
nothing; but it is as good as your bogus ghosts 
and shivering bishops. And then I always had 
my doubts about that bishop, High-Muck. 
I've heard you tell that story before, and it has 
26s 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

always struck me as highly improper. I don't 
wonder the girl was scared to death and skipped 
the next morning. And the gay old bishop! 
Felt cold, did he.?" and Louis threw back his 
head and laughed until the tears rolled down 
his cheeks. 



266 



XII 
WHY MIGNON WENT TO MARKET 

TT is market day at Dives. This means that 
it is Saturday, On Friday the market is 
at Cabourg, on Wednesday at Buezval, and 
on the other days at the several small towns 
within a radius of twenty miles. 

It means, too, that the street fronting the 
Inn is blocked up with a hne of carts, little 
and big, their shafts in the gutter, the horses 
eating from troughs tied to the hind axle; 
that another line stretches its length along the 
narrow street on the kitchen side of the Inn 
which leads to the quaint Norman church, 
squeezing itself through a yet narrower street 
into a small open square, where it comes bump 
up against a huge hulk of a building, choked 
up on these market days with piles of vege- 
tables, crates of chickens, boxes of apples, un- 
ruly pigs alive and squealing; patient, tired, 
little calves; geese, ducks — all squawking; 
chrysanthemums in pots spread out on the 
sidewalk; old brass, old iron; everything that 
267 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

goes to supply the needs of the white-capped 
women and wide-hatted men who crowd every 
square foot of standing room. 

Market day means, too, that Pierre is unu- 
sually busy; and so is Lemois, and so are Lea 
and our little Mignon. Long before any one 
of us were out of bed this morning, the court- 
yard was crowded with big red-faced Norman 
farmers and their fat wives, all talking at once 
over their coffee, each with half a glass of Cal- 
vados (Norman apple-jack) dumped into their 
cups. At noon, the market over, they were 
back again for their midday breakfast, and 
Pierre, who had been working since daylight 
without a mouthful to eat, then placed on a 
big table in one of the open kiosks a huge 
earthen crock, sizzling-hot, filled with tripe, 
bits of pork, and chicken — the whole seasoned 
with onions and giving out a most seductive 
and inviting smell when its earthenware cover 
was lifted. There were great loaves of brown 
bread, too, which Lemois himself cut and served 
to the guests, besides cold pork in slices and 
cabbage chopped into shreds. When each 
plate was full, and the knives and forks had 
begun to rattle, he went indoors for his most 
precious heirloom — the square cut-glass decan- 
268 



AVHY MIGNON WENT TO MAEKET 

ter with its stopper made of silver buttons cut 
from a peasant's jacket and soldered together — 
and after brimming each glass, seated him- 
self and took his meal with the others, bowing 
them out when breakfast was over — hat in 
hand — as if they were ambassadors of a for- 
eign court — gentleman and peasant, as he is 
— ^while they, full to their eyelids, stumbled up 
into their several carts, their women climbing 
in after. 

And a great day it was for an out-door meal 
or for anything else one's soul longed for — and 
they have these days in Normandy in October, 
when the fire is out in the Marmouset, the air 
a caress, and a hunger for the vanished sum- 
mer comes over you. So soothing was the 
touch of the autumn air, and so lovely the 
tones of the autumn sky, that Louis hauled 
out a sketch-box from beneath a pile of can- 
vases, and tucking one of them under his arm, 
disappeared through the big gate in the direc- 
tion of the old church. Brierley took downi 
his gun, and, calling Peter, strolled out of the 
court-yard promising to be back at luncheon,, 
while Herbert, who had risen at dawn and, 
walked to Houlgate to bid The Engineer good- 
by, dragged out an easy-chair from the "Gal- 
269 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

lerie," backed it up against the statue of the 
Great Louis, and under pretence of resting his 
legs, buried himself in a book, the warm sun- 
shine full on the page. 

I, being left to my own devices, waited until 
the last cart with its well-fed load of Norman 
farmers had turned the corner of the Inn and 
quiet reigned again; and remembering that I 
was host, sought out our landlord and put the 
question squarely as to what objections, if any, 
he, the lord of the manor, had to our lunching 
out of doors too, and at the same table on 
which Pierre had placed the big crock and its 
attendant trimmings. 

"Of course, my dear Monsieur High-Muck, 
you shall all lunch in the court, but the menu 
shall be better adapted to your more gentle 
appetites than the one prepared for our de- 
parted guests. I am at this moment paying 
the penalty for my share of the indigestible 
mess — but then I could not hurt their feelings 
by refusing — and so I have a queer feeling 
here" — and he ironed his waistcoat with the 
flat of his hand, his eyes upraised as if in 
pain. "But let me think — ^what shall it be 
to-day? I have a fish which Mignon, who has 
just gone to the market, will bring back, be- 
270 



WHY MIGNON WENT TO MARKET 

cause I could not go myself nor spare Lea. 
Those big-eating people came so early and 
stayed so late. After the fish we will have 
Poulet Vallee D'auge, with stewed celery, and 
at last a Peche Flambee — and it will be the 
last time, for the late peaches are about over. 
And now about the wine — ^will you pick it out 
or shall I? Ah! — I remember — only yesterday 
I found a few bottles of Moncontour Vouvray 
at the bottom of a shelf in my old wine-cellar. 
It will bring fresh courage to your hearts. 
When it does not do that, and you have only 
dull despair or thick headaches, it should be 
poured out on the ground" — having delivered 
which homily, the old man, with his eye on 
Coco asleep on his perch, sauntered slowly up 
the court in the direction of the wine-cellar, 
from which he emerged a few minutes later 
bearing two dust-encrusted bottles topped with 
yellow wax — a distinguishing mark which he 
himself had placed there some twenty years 
before and had forgotten. 

So while Herbert read on, only looking up 
now and then from his book. Lea and I set the 
table, stripping it of its rough, heavy dishes, 
swabbing it off with a clean, water-soaked 
towel — I did the swabbing and Lea held the 
271 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

basin — bringing from the Marmouset our linen 
and china, then dragging up the big wooden 
chairs, which were rain-proof and never housed. 

We missed Mignon, of course. Buying a 
fish, and the market but half a dozen blocks 
away, should not require a whole hour for its 
completion, especially since she had been told 
to hurry — more especially still, since Pierre's 
pot was on the boil awaiting its arrival, Louis 
and Brierley having returned hungry as bears. 
Indeed I had already started in to ask Lemois 
the plump question as to what detained our 
Bunch of Roses, when Lea's thin, sharp, fingers 
clutched my coat-sleeve, her eyes on Lemois. 
What she meant I dared not ask, but there was 
no doubt in my mind that it had to do with the 
love affair in which every man of us was mixed 
up as coconspirator — a conclusion which was in- 
stantly confirmed when I looked into her shriv- 
elled face and caught the joyous, lantern flare 
behind her eyes. 

Waiting until we were out of hearing, Le- 
mois having gone to the kitchen, she answered 
with a shake of her old head : 

"Mignon loiters because Gaston is well 
again." 

"But he has never been ill. That crack on 
272 



WHY MIGNON WENT TO MARKET 

his head did him a lot of good — hurt Monsieur 
Lemois, I fancy, more than it did Gaston — set 
him to thinking — maybe now it will come out 
all right." 

"No; it only made him the more obstinate; 
he has forbidden the boy the place." 

"And is that why you are so happy?" 

The shrewd, kindly eyes of the old woman 
looked into mine and then a sudden smile flung 
a myriad of wrinkles across her face. 

"I am happy, monsieur," she whispered as I 
followed her around the table with the box of 
knives and forks, "because things are getting 
brighter. Gaston has a stall now in the mar- 
ket where he can sell his fish himself, and where 
Mignon can see him once in a while. She is 
with him now. You know the hucksters paid 
him what they pleased, and sometimes, even 
when Gaston's catch was big, he made only a 
few francs some mornings. And the mother 
and he were obliged to take what they could 
get, for you cannot wait with fish when the 
weather is hot. To buy the stall and pay for 
it all at once was what troubled them, so it 
is a great day for Gaston — Monsieur Gaston 
Dupre now" — and her eyes twinkled. "Even 
if Monsieur Lemois holds out — and he may, 
273 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

after all — then there may be another way. Is 
it not so? Ah, we will seel She is very happy 
now. Only I am getting nervous; she stays 
so long I am afraid that Monsieur Lemois 
may find out," and she shot an anxious glance 
up the garden. 

"What did the stall cost. Lea?" I asked, 
flattening the knives beside the plates as I 
talked, my eye on the kitchen door so Lemois 
should not surprise us. 

"Oh, a great sum — one hundred and ten 
francs. Two knives here, if you please, mon- 
sieur." 

"Well, where did it come from — their sav- 
ings ? " obeying her directions as I spoke. 

"No — not his money nor his mother's; she 
could not spare so much. She must be buried 
some time, and there must always be money 
enough for that. All Gaston knows is that 
the chief of the market came to his house and 
left the receipt with the permit. It is for a 
year." 

"Well — somebody must have paid. Who 
was it?" I had finished with the knives and 
had begun on the forks and tablespoons. 

"Yes — there was somebody, perhaps it was 
madame la marquise?" and she turned quickly 
274 



WHY MIGNON WENT TO MARKET 

and looked into my eyes, an expression of 
shrewd inquiry adding a new set of wrinkles 
to her gentle face. "Maybe you know, mon- 
sieur?" 

"No, it's all news to me. I am glad for her 
sake, anyhow, whoever did it. Was it news to 
Mignon?" 

"When?" 

"Why this morning when she went to mar- 
ket?" 

"Yes, of course it was news to her. I, my- 
self, only knew it last night, and I wouldn't 
tell her; she would have betrayed herself in 
her joy. So when the market people stayed 
so long — and I did all I could to make them 
stay" — here her small bead eyes were pinched 
tight in merriment — "I said there was nothing 
for your dinner and we must have a fish and 
that Mignon might better go for it. Watch 
her when she returns: her face will tell you 
whether she has seen him or not. Now give 
me the box, monsieur, and thank you for help- 
ing me. Listen! There she comes; I hear her 
singing." 

And so did the whole court-yard, and she 
kept on singing, her basket on her arm, her face 
in fullsunlight, until she espied Lea. Then down 
275 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

went the fish and away she flew, throwing her 
arms around the dear old woman's neck, not 
caring who saw her; hugging her one minute, 
kissing her seamed cheeks the next, chattering 
like a magpie all the time, her eyes flashing, her 
cheeks red as two roses. 

Only when Lemois appeared in the kitchen 
door and bent his steps toward us did her cus- 
tomary demureness return, and even then the 
joy in her heart was only stifled for the mo- 
ment by a fear of his having overheard her 
song and of his wondering at the cause. 

And if the truth be told, he did come very 
near finding out when luncheon was served, 
and would have done so but for the fact that I 
upset Le Blanc's glass of Vouvray and followed 
up the warning with a punch below his fat 
waist-line when he began telling us how sorry 
he was for being late, he having made a wide 
detour to avoid the market carts, winding up 
with: "And oh, by the way, I met your little 
maid, Mignon, in the fish-market; she was hav- 
ing a beautiful time with a young fisherman 
who " 

It was here the dig came in. 

"Ouch! What the devil, High-Muck, do you 
mean? Oh, I understand — yes, as I was say- 
276 



WHY MIGNON WENT TO MARKET 

ing" — here he stole a glance at Lemois — "I 
met Mignon in the market; she was buying a 
beautiful fish. I hope. Monsieur Lemois, we 
are to have it for dinner. Don't bother, Lea, 
about the spilt wine; just get me a fresh glass. 
And, Louis, do you mind letting go that crust- 
ing of cobwebs so I can get another taste of 
that nosegay?" and thus the day was saved. 

We broke loose, however, when Lemois was 
gone, and I told the whole story as Lea had 
given it, Louis, in his customary role of toast- 
master, rising in his seat and pledging the young 
couple, whose health and happiness we all 
drank, Brierley whistling the Wedding March 
to the accompaniment of a great clatter of 
knives and forks on the plates. 

In fact, the very air seemed so charged with 
uncontrollable exhilaration that Coco, the old- 
est and most knowing of birds — he is sixty-five 
and has seen more love-making from his perch 
in the dormer overlooking that same court- 
yard than all the chaperones who ever lived — 
suddenly broke out into screams of delight, 
ruffling his feathers, curling up his celery sprout 
of a topknot, his eyes following Mignon, his 
head cocked on one side, when she raced back 
and forth from Pierre's range to our big table. 
277 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Even Tito, the scrap of a black kitten, who 
was never three feet away from Mignon's heels, 
dodged in and out of her swaying petticoats in 
mad chase after her restless feet, and would 
not be quieted until she stopped long enough 
to take him up in her arms for a moment's 
cuddling. 

Of none of all this, thank Heaven, did Le- 
mois have the faintest glimmer of a suspicion. 
When on her return from market he had scolded 
her for being late, he had taken her silence 
only as proof that she thought she deserved it. 
When he would have broken out on her again, 
suddenly remembering that our coffee was 
likely to be delayed, Herbert, to whom I had 
whispered my discovery — diplomat as he was — 
'begged him to delay the serving of it until it 
could be poured directly from the pot into our 
cups, as the air of the court would chill it. All 
of which. Heaven be thanked again, Mignon 
overheard, sending her flying back to the 
kitchen, her eyes aglow with the happiness of 
a secret that filled her heart to bursting. 

When she at last appeared with the coffee- 
pot, so contagious was her joy that our ex- 
tended hands trembled as we held the tiny cups 
beneath her fingers. Somehow we had caught 
278 



WHY MIGNON WENT TO MARKET 

a little of her thrill. And it was all so evi- 
dent and so marvellous and so inspiring that 
every man Jack of us, blighted old bachelors 
as we were, fell to wondering whether, after all, 
it would not have been better to have bent the 
neck to the yoke and had a running-mate be- 
side us than to have continued our dreary trot 
in single harness. 



279 



XIII 

WITH A DISSERTATION ON ROUND 
PEGS AND SQUARE -HOLES 

XXT'ORK on the wrecked villa of madame la 
marquise was progressing with a vim. 
The Engineer, called in consultation, had with 
a comprehensive grasp of the situation brushed 
aside the architect's plan of shoring up one end 
of the structure at a time; had rigged a pair 
of skids made from some old abandoned tim- 
ber found on the beach and with a common 
ship's windlass, a heavy hawser, and a "Heave 
ho, my hearties ! " — to which every loose fisher- 
man within reach lent a hand — had dragged the 
ruin up the hill and landed it intact on level 
ground some twenty feet back from its former 
site. This done — and it was accompHshed in 
a day — the porch was straightened and the 
lopsided walls forced into place. With the ex- 
ception of the collapsed chimney, the former 
residence of the distinguished lady was not such 
a wreck as had been supposed. 
Next followed the slicing off of the raw edge 
280 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

of the landslide, the building of a fence, and, 
later on, the preparation of a new garden. 
This last was to be madame's very own, and 
neither care nor cost was to be considered in 
its making. She could sleep in a garage — she 
had slept there since the catastrophe — and take 
her meals from the top of a barrel (which was 
also true), but a garden meant the very breath 
of her life — flowers she must have — flowers all 
the time, from the first crocus to the last Octo- 
ber blossoms. Marc, now her abject slave, 
was then at Rouen arranging for their ship- 
ment. The daily news — such as twenty or 
more men at work, the chimney half finished, 
the fence begun, etc., etc. — Le Blanc, who was 
constantly at the site, generally brought us at 
night, his report being received with the keen- 
est zest, for the marquise was now counted as 
the most delightful of our coterie. 

His very latest and most important bulletin 
set us all to speculating; — the old garage — 
here his voice rose in intensity — was to be 
moved back some fifty feet and a new wing 
added, with bedroom above and a kitchen be- 
low. ' "A new garage!" we had all exclaimed. 
Who then was to occupy it? Not madame, of 
course, nor her servants, for they, as hereto- 
281 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

fore, would be quartered in the reconstructed 
villa. Certainly not any of her visitors — and 
most assuredly not Marc! 

"Take my advice and stop guessing," laughed 
the Frenchman; "she'll tell you when she gets 
ready, and not before. And she'll have the 
wing completed on time, for nothing daunts 
her. To want a thing done is, with her, to 
have it finished. The new wing was an after- 
thought, and yet it did not delay the work an 
hour. She'll be serving tea in that wreck next 
week." 

"It is because madame la marquise was born 
with a gift," remarked Lemois dryly from his 
seat near the fire. "Her mind is constructive, 
and everything madame touches must have a 
definite beginning and lead up to a definite 
ending. Her sanity is shown in her never try- 
ing to do things for which she is not fitted. 
As a musician, or a painter, or even a sculptor, 
or in any occupation demanding a fine imagi- 
nation, madame, it seems to me, would have 
been a pathetic failure." 

"How about an antiquary?" remarked Louis, 
blowing a ring of smoke across the table, a 
quizzical smile lighting up his face. 

"As an antiquary, my dear Monsieur Louis, 
282 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

the eminent lady would have been a pro- 
nounced success. She is one now, for she in- 
sists on knowing that the thing she buys is 
genuine, and it saves her many absurdities. I 
can think of nothing in her collection that can 
be questioned — and I cannot say that of my 
own. 

"And so you don't believe that a man or a 
woman can make what they please of them- 
selves?" asked Herbert, who was always glad 
to hear from Lemois. 

"Not any more than I believe that tulip 
bulbs will grow blackberries if I water them 
enough." 

"It's all a question of blood," essayed Le 
Blanc, snipping the end from his cigar with 
a gold cutter attached to his watch-chain. 
"Failures in life are almost always due to a 
scrap of gray tissue clogging up a gentleman's 
brain, which, ten chances to one, he has inher- 
ited from some plebeian ancestor." 

"Failures in life come from nothing of the 
sort!" blurted out Louis. "It's just dead lazi- 
ness, and of the cheapest kind. All the paint- 
ers I knew at Julien's who waited for a mood 
are waiting yet." 

"The trouble with most unsuccessful men," 
283 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

volunteered Brierley, "is the everlasting trim- 
ming up of a square peg to make it fit a 
round hole." 

"Then drive it in and make it fit," answered 
Louis. "It will hug all the tighter for the 
raw edges it raises." 

"And if it splits the plank, Louis?" I asked. 

"Let it split! A man, High-Muck, who can't 
make a success of his life is better out of it, 
unless he's a cripple, and then he can have my 
pocket-book every time. Look at Herbert! — 
he's forged ahead; yet he's been so hungry 
sometimes he could have gnawed off the soles 
of his shoes." 

"Only the imagination of the out-door 
painter, gentlemen," answered Herbert with a 
laughing nod to the table at large. "The 
hungry part is, perhaps, correct, but I forget 
about the shoes." 

"I stick to my point!" exclaimed Le Blanc, 
facing Herbert as he spoke. "It's blood as well 
as push that makes a man a success. When he 
lacks the combination he fails — that is, he does 
nine times out of ten, and that percentage, of 
course, is too small to trust to." 

"That reminds me of a story," interrupted 
Brierley with one of his quiet laughs, "of some 
284 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

fellows who took chances on the percentage, 
as Le Blanc calls it, and yet, as we Americans 
say, ' arrived.' A well-born young Englishman, 
down on his luck, had been tramping the streets, 
too proud to go home to his father's house, 
the spirit of the hobo still in him. One night 
he struck up an acquaintance with another 
young chap as poor and independent as him- 
self. Naturally they affiliated. Both were 
sons of gentlemen and both vagabonds in the 
best sense. One became a reporter and the 
other a news-gatherer. The first had no dress 
suit and was debarred from state functions and 
smart receptions; the second boasted not only 
a dress suit useful at weddings, but a respec- 
table morning frock-coat for afternoon teas. 
The two outfits brought them lodgings and 
three meals a day, for what the dress suit could 
pick up in the way of society news the man 
with the pen got into type. Things went on 
this way until August set in and the season 
closed; then both men lost their jobs. For 
some weeks they braved it out, badgering the 
landlady; then came the pawning of their 
clothes, and then one meal a day, and then 
a bench in St. James's Park out of sight of 
the bobbies. This being rock bottom, a council 
285 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

of war was held. The news-gatherer shipped 
aboard an outgoing vessel and disappeared from 
civilization. The reporter kept on reporting. 
Both had courage and both had the best blood 
of England in their veins, according to my view. 
Twenty years later the two met at a drawing- 
room in Buckingham Palace. The reporter 
had risen to a peer and the news-gatherer to a 
merchant prince. There was a hearty hand- 
shake, a furtive glance down the long, gold- 
encrusted corridor, and then, with a common 
impulse, the two moved to an open window 
and looked out. Below them lay the bench on 
which the two had slept twenty years before." 

"Of course!" shouted Le Blanc; "that's just 
what I said — a case of good blood — that's what 
kept them going. They owed it to their ances- 
tors." 

"Ancestors be hanged! It was a case of pure 
grit!" shouted Louis in return. "All the blood 
in the world wouldn't have helped them if it 
hadn't been for that. Neither of them ex- 
pected, when they started out in life, to be 
shown up six flights of marble stairs by a hun- 
dred flunkeys in silk stockings, but, as Brierley 
puts it, 'they arrived all the same.' Blood alone 
would have landed them as clerks in govern- 
286 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

ment pay or obscure country gentlemen waiting 
for somebody to die. They kept on driving in 
the peg and before they got through all the 
chinks were filled. Keep your toes in your 
pumps, gentlemen. High-Muck is loaded for 
something; I see it in his eyes. Go on, High- 
Muck, and let us have it. How do you vote — 
blood or brains?" 

"Neither," I answered. "Lemois is nearest 
the truth. You can't make a silk purse out 
of — ^you know the rest — neither can you force 
a man, nor can he force himself, to succeed in 
something for which he is not fitted. All you 
do is to split the plank and ruin his life. I'll 
tell you a story which will perhaps give you 
and idea of what I mean. 

"Perhaps five years ago — perhaps six — my 
memory is always bad for dates — I met a fel- 
low in one of our small Western cities at home 
who, by all odds, was the most brilliant con- 
versationalist I had run across for years. The 
acquaintance began as my audience — I was 
lecturing at the time — left the room and was 
continued under the sidewalk, where we had a 
porter-house steak and a mug apiece, the re- 
past and talk lasting until two in the morning. 
Gradually I learned his history. He had started 
287 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

life as a reporter; developed into space writer, 
then editor, and was known as the most caus- 
tic and brilliant journalist on any of the West- 
ern papers. With the death of his wife, he had 
thrown up this position and was, when I met 
him, conducting a small country paper. 

"What possessed me I don't know, but after 
seeing him half a dozen times that winter — 
and I often passed through his town — I made 
up my mind that his brilliant talk, quaint phi- 
losophy, and mastery of English were wasted on 
what he was doing, and that if I could per- 
suade him to write a novel he would not only 
drop into the hole his Maker had bored for 
him, but would make a name for himself. All 
that he had to do was to put himself into type 
and the rest would follow. Of course he pro- 
tested; he was fifty years old, he said, had but 
little means, no experience in fiction, his work 
not being imaginative but concerned with the 
weightier and more practical things of the day. 

"All this made me only the keener to do 
something to drag him out of the pit and start 
him in a new direction. 

"The first thing was to make him believe 
in himself. I pooh-poohed the idea of his fail- 
ure to succeed at fifty as being any reason for 
288 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

his not acquiring distinction at sixty, and 
counted on my fingers the men who had done 
their best work late in Hfe. Taking up some 
of the editorials he had sent me (undeniable 
proofs, so he had maintained, of his inability 
to do anything better or, rather, different), I 
picked out a sentence here and there, reading 
it aloud and dilating on his choice of words; I 
showed him how his style would tell in an up- 
to-date novel, and how forceful his short, pithy 
epigrams would be scattered throughout its text. 
"Little by Httle he began to enthuse: I had 
kindled his pride — something that had lain dor- 
mant for years — and the warmth of its revival 
soon sent the blood of a new hope tingling 
through his veins. He now confessed that he 
had always wanted to write sustained fiction 
without ever having had either the opportunity 
or the strength to begin. Inspired by my ef- 
forts, others of his friends at home joined in 
the bracing up, recognizing as I had done the 
charm and quaHty of the man — his wit and 
tenderness, his philosophy and knowledge of the 
Hfe about him. They forgot, of course, as had 
I, that in fiction — and in all imaginative litera- 
ture for that matter — something more is re- 
quired than either a knowledge of men or the 
289 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

ability for turning out phrases. As an actor 
steps in between the dramatist and the audience 
— visualizing and vitalizing the text by deft 
gestures, telling emphases, and those silent 
pauses often more effective than the speech 
itself — so must the author with his pen: in 
other words, he must infuse into the written 
word something that presents to you in print 
that which the actor makes you see beyond 
the footlights. This, however, you men know 
all about, so I won't dilate on it. 

"Well, he started in and threw himself into 
the task with a grip and energy of which I had 
not thought him capable. It took him about 
six months to finish the novel; then he came 
East and laid the manuscript in my hands. 
We shut ourselves up in my study and went 
over it. When I suggested that a page dragged, 
he would snatch it from my hand, square him- 
self on my hearth-rug with his back to the fire, 
and read it aloud, pumping his personality into 
every line. Conversations which, when I read 
them, had seemed long-winded and common- 
place took on a new meaning. When he had 
gone to bed I reread the passages and again 
my heart sank. 

"The publisher came next, I delivering th? 
290 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

manuscript myself with all the good things I 
could say about it. 

"At the end of the week that ominous-look- 
ing white coffin of an envelope in which so 
many of our hopes are buried, and which most 
of us know so well, was laid on my study table, 
and with it the short obituary notice: 'Not 
adapted to our uses.' 

"I was afraid to tell him, and didn't. I ar- 
ranged a dinner instead for the three of us — 
the editor, whom he had not yet met, being 
one. During the meal not a word was said 
about the rejected novel. I had cautioned the 
author — and, of course, the editor never brought 
his shop to a dinner-table. 

"After the cigars I took up the manuscript 
and the discussion opened. The editor was 
very frank, very kind, and very helpful. He 
had wanted to publish it, but there were long 
passages — essays, really — in which the reader's 
galloping interest would get stalled. Experi- 
ence had taught him that it was slow-downs 
like these that mired so much of modern fiction. 

"'Which passages, for instance,' I asked 
rather casually. 

"'Well, the part which — Hand me the 

manuscript and I will ' 

291 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

***No; suppose my friend reads it — you 
have enough of that to do all day.' 

"Just as I expected, the reader's personal- 
ity again transformed everything. The long- 
winded descriptions under the magic of his 
voice seemed too short, while every conversa- 
tion thought dull before appeared to be il- 
lumined by a hidden meaning tucked away 
between the lines. 

"When the editor left at midnight the cof- 
fin was in his pocket. Two days later the book 
department forwarded a contract with a check 
for five hundred dollars as advance royalties. 

"There was no holding my friend down 
to earth after that. His joy and pride in that 
shambling, God-forsaken, worthless plodder 
whom he had despised for years was overwhelm- 
ing. He was like a boy out of school. Stories 
which he had forgotten were pulled out of the 
past and given with a humor and point 
that dazzled every one around my study fire. 
Personal reminiscences of politicians he had 
known, and campaigns he had directed from 
his editorial chair, were told in a way that 
made them live in our memories ever after. 
Never had any of my friends met so delightful 
and cultivated a man. 

293 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

"The next day he went back to his home 
town carrying his enthusiasm with him. 

"In two months the usual book notices 
began to crop out in the papers — all written 
in the pubUsher's establishment — a fact which 
he must have known, but which, from his enthu- 
siastic letters, I saw he had overlooked. His 
own village papers reprinted the notices with 
editorial comments of their own — 'Our dis- 
tinguished fellow-citizen,' etc. — that sort of 
thing. 

"These were also forwarded to me by mail 
with renewed thanks for the service I had 
done him — he, the 'modern Lazarus snatched 
from an early grave.' When a bona fide re- 
viewer noticed the book at all, it was in half 
a dozen lines, with allusions to the amateur- 
ishness of the effort — 'his first and, it is hoped, 
his last,' one critic was brutal enough to add. 
When one of these reached him, it was dis- 
missed with a smile. He knew what he had 
done, and so would the world once the book 
got out among the people. 

"Then the first six months' account was 
mailed him. The royalty sales had not reached 
one-half of the first payment! 

"He sat — so his brother told me afterward 

293 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

— ^with the firm's letter in his hand, and for 
an hour never opened his lips. That after- 
noon he went to bed; in three months he was 
dead! It had broken his heart. 

"I, too, sat with a paper in my hand — 
his brother's telegram. Had I done right or 
wrong? I am still wondering and I have not 
yet solved the question. Had I never crossed 
his path and had he kept on in his editor's 
chair, giving out short, crisp comments on the 
life of the day, he would, no doubt, be alive 
and earning a fair support. I had attempted 
the impossible and failed. The square peg in 
the round hole had split the plank!" 

"Better split it," remarked Louis, "than 
stop all driving. Poor fellow, I'm sorry for 
him; nothing hurts like having your pride 
dragged in the mud, and nothing brings keener 
suffering — I've seen it and know. Why didn't 
you brace him up again, High-Muck?" 

"I did try, but it was too late. Just before 
he died he wrote me the old refrain: 'At 
twenty-five I might have weathered it, but not 
at fifty.'" 

Herbert drew his chair closer, assuming his 
favorite gesture, his hands on the edge of the 
table. 

294 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

"I say 'poor fellow' too, Louis, but High- 
Muck has not put his finger on the right spot. 
It was not the man's pride that was wounded; 
nor did he die of a broken heart. He died be- 
cause he had not reached his pinnacle, and that 
is quite a diiFerent thing. What blinded him 
and destroyed his reason — for it cannot be 
thought very sensible for a man to abandon a 
certain fixed income for a rainbow — ^was not 
your reviving his belief in himself, but your 
giving him, for the first time, an opportunity 
to spread his wings. But for that you could 
not have persuaded him to write a line. The 
pitiful thing was that the wings were not large 
enough — still they were wings to be used in 
the air of romance, and not legs with which to 
tread the roads of the commonplace, and he 
knew it. He had felt them growing ever since 
he was a boy. It is only a question of the 
spread of one's feathers, after all, whether one 
succeeds soaring over mountains with a view 
of the never-ending Valley of Content below, or 
whether one keeps on grovelling in the mud." 

As Herbert paused a tremulous silence fell 

upon the group. That he, of all men, should 

thus penetrate, if not espouse, the cause of 

failure — the hardest of all things for a man 

295 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

of phenomenal success to comprehend or ex- 
cuse in his fellows — came as a new note. 

"To illustrate this theory," he continued, un- 
conscious of the effect he had produced, "I will 
tell you about a man whom I once came across 
in one of the studios of Paris, back of the Pan- 
theon. All his life he had determined to be a 
sculptor — and when I say 'determined' I mean 
he had thought of nothing else. By day he 
worked in the atelier, at night he drew from 
a cast — a custom then of the young sculptors. 
In the Louvre and in the Luxembourg — out in 
the gardens of the Tuileries — ^wherever there 
was something moulded or cut into form, there 
at odd hours you could always find this enthu- 
siast. At night too, when the other students 
were trooping through the Quartier, breaking 
things or outrunning the gendarmes, this poor 
devil was working away, doing Ledas and Ve- 
nuses and groups of nudes, with rearing horses 
and chariots, — all the trite subjects a young 
sculptor attempts whose imagination outruns 
his ability. 

"Year after year his things would come up 
before the jury and be rejected; and they de- 
served it. Soon it began to dawn on his asso- 
ciates, but never on him, that, try as he might, 
296 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

there was something lacking in his artistic make- 
up. With the master standing over him advis- 
ing a bit of clay put on here, or a slice taken off 
there, he had seemed to progress; when, how- 
ever, he struck out for himself his results were 
most disheartening. It was during this part of 
his life that I came to know him. He was then 
a man of forty, ten years younger than your 
dead novelist, High-Muck, and, like him, a man 
of many sorrows. The difference was that all 
his life my man had been poor; at no time for 
more than a week had he ever been sure of his 
bread. As he was an expert moulder and often 
gratuitously helped his brother sculptors in tak- 
ing casts of their clay figures, he had often been 
begged to accept employment at good wages 
with some of the stucco people, but he had re- 
fused and had fought on, preferring starvation 
to patisserie, as he called this kind of work. 

"Nor had he, like your novelist, happiness to 
look back upon. He had married young, as 
they all do, and there had come a daughter who 
had grown to be eighteen, and who had been 
lost in the whirl — slipped in the mud, they said, 
and the city had rolled over her. And then the 
wife died and he was alone. The girl had crept 
up his stairs one night and lay shivering outside 
297 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

his door; he had taken her in, put her to bed, 
and fed her. Later on her last lover discov- 
ered by chance her hiding-place, and in the 
mould-maker's absence the two had found the 
earthen pot with the few francs he owned and 
had spent them. After that he had shut his 
door in her face. And so the fight went on, 
his ideal still alive in his heart, his one pur- 
pose to give it flight — 'soaring over the heads 
of the millions,' as he put it, 'so that even dul- 
lards might take oflF their hats in recognition.' 

"When I again met him he was living in an 
old, abandoned theatre on the outskirts of Paris, 
a weird, uncanny ruin — rats everywhere — the 
scenery hanging in tatters, the stage broken 
down, the pit filled to the level of the footlights 
with a mass of coal — for a dealer in fuels had 
leased it for this purpose, his carts going in 
and out of the main entrance. One of the 
dressing-rooms over the flies was his studio, 
reached by a staircase from the old stage en- 
trance. A former tenant had cut a skyHght 
under which my friend worked. 

"In answer to his 'Entrez' I pushed open his 
door and found him in a sculptor's blouse cow- 
ering over a small sheet-iron stove on which 
some food was being cooked. He raised his 
298 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

head, straightened his back, and came toward 
me — a small, shrunken man now, prematurely 
old, his two burning eyes looking out from 
under his ledge of a forehead like coals beneath 
a half-burnt log, a shock of iron-gray hair stick- 
ing straight up from his scalp as would a brush. 
About his nose, up his cheeks, around his mouth, 
and especially across his throat, which was free 
of a cravat, ran pasty wrinkles, like those on a 
piece of uncooked tripe. Only half-starved 
men who have lived on greasy soups and scraps 
from the kitchens have these complexions. 

"I describe him thus carefully to you be- 
cause that first glance of his scarred face had 
told me his life's story. It is the same with 
every man who suffers. 

"He talked of his work, of the conspiracies 
that had followed him all his career, shutting 
him out of his just rewards, while less brilliant 
men snatched the prizes which should have 
been his; of his hopes for the future; of the 
great competition soon to come off at Rheims, 
in which he would compete — not that he had 
yet put his idea into clay — that was always a 
mere question of detail with him. Then, as 
if by the merest accident — something he had 
quite forgotten, but which he thought might 
299 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

interest me — he told me, with a quickening of 
his glance and the first smile I had seen cross 
his pasty face, of a certain statue of his, 'a 
Masterpiece,' which a great connoisseur had 
bought for his garden, and which faced one of 
the open spaces of Paris. I could see it any 
day I walked that way — indeed, if I did not 
mind, he would go with me — he had been 
housed all the morning and needed the air. 

"I pleaded an excuse and left him, for I 
knew all about this masterpiece which had been 
bought by a tradesman and planted in his gar- 
den among groups of cast-iron dogs and spout- 
ing dolphins, the hedge in front cut low enough 
for passers-by to see the entire collection. 
Hardly a day elapsed that the poor fellow did 
not walk by, drinking in the beauty of his work, 
comforting himself with the effect it produced 
on the plain people who stopped to admire. 
Sometimes he would accost them and bring the 
conversation round to the sculptor, and then 
abruptly take his leave, they staring at him as 
he bowed his thanks. 

"The following year I again looked him up; 
his poverty and his courage appealed to me; be- 
sides, I intended to help him. When I knocked 
at his door he did not cry 'Entrez' — he kept 
300 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

still, as if he had not heard me or was out. 
When I pushed the door open he turned, looked 
at me for an instant, and resumed his work. 
Again my eyes took him in — thinner, dryer, 
less nourished. He was casting the little images 
you buy from a board carried on a vendor's 
back. 

"Without heeding his silence I at once stated 
my errand. He should make a statue for my 
garden; furthermore, his name and address 
should be plainly cut in the pedestal. 

"He thanked me for my order, but he 
made no more statues, he said. He was now 
engaged in commercial work. Art was dead. 
Nobody cared. Did I remember his great 
statue — the one in the garden? — his Apollo? — 
the Greek of modern times? Well, the place 
had changed hands, and the new owner had 
carted it away with the cast-iron dogs and the 
dolphins and ploughed up the lawn to make an 
artichoke-bed. The masterpiece was no more. 
'I found all that was left of my work,' he added, 
'on a dirt heap in the rear of his out-house, the 
head gone and both arms broken short off.' 

"His voice wavered and ceased, and it was 
with some difficulty that he straightened his 
back, moved his drying plaster casts one side, 
301 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

and offered me the free part of the bench for a 
seat. 

"I remained standing and broke out in pro- 
test. I abused the ignorance and jealousy of 
the people and of the juries — did everything I 
could, in fact, to reassure him and pump some 
hope into him — precisely what you did to your 
own author, High-Muck. I even agreed to 
pay in advance for the new statue I had ordered. 
I told him, too, that if he would come back to 
the country with me, I would make a place for 
him in an empty greenhouse, where he could 
work undisturbed. He only shook his head. 

"'What for?' he answered — 'for money? I 
am alone in the world, and it's of no use to me. 
I am accustomed to being starved. For fame? 
I have given my life to express the thoughts 
of my heart and nobody would listen. Now 
it is finished. I will keep them for the good 
God — perhaps He will listen.' 

"A week later I found him sitting bolt 
upright in his chair under the skylight, dead. 
Above in the dull gloom hung a row of plaster 
models, his own handiwork — fragments of arms 
and hands with fists clenched ready to strike; 
queer torsos writhing in pain; queerer masks 
with hollow eyes. In the grimy light these 
302 



ROUND PEGS AND SQUARE HOLES 

seemed to have come to life — the torsos leaning 
over, hunching their shoulders at him as if 
blaming him for their suffering; the masks 
mocking at his misery, leering at each other. 
It was a grewsome sight, and I did not shake 
off the memory of the scene for days. 

"And so I hold," added Herbert, with a 
sorrowful shake of his head "that it is 
neither pride nor suflFering that kills men of 
this class. It is because they have failed to 
reach the pinnacle of their ideals — that goal 
for which some spirits risk both their lives and 
their hopes of heaven." 



303 



XIV 

A WOMAN'S WAY 

"LTOWEVER serious the talk of the night be- 
fore — and Herbert's pathetic story of the 
poor mould-maker was still in our memory when 
we awoke — the effect was completely dispelled 
as soon as we began to breathe the air of the 
out of doors. 

The weather helped — another of those ca- 
ressing Indian-summer days — the sleepy sun 
with half-closed eyes dozing at you through its 
lace curtains of mist; every fire out and all the 
windows wide open. 

Lea helped. Never were her sabots so ac- 
tive nor so musical in their scuffle: now hot 
milk, now fresh coffee, now another crescent 
— all on the run, and all with a spontaneous, 
uncontrollable laugh between each serving — all 
the more unaccountable as of late the dear old 
woman's face, except at brief intervals, had 
been as long as an undertaker's. 

And Mignon helped! 

Helped.? Why, she was the whole pro- 
gramme — with another clear, ringing, happy 
304 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

song that came straight from her heart; her 
head thrown back, her face to the sun as if 
she would drink in all its warmth and cheer, 
the cofFee-roaster keeping time to the melody. 

And it was not many minutes before each 
private box and orchestra chair in and about 
the court-yard, as well as the top galleries, were 
filled with spectators ready for the rise of the 
curtain. Herbert leaned out over his bedroom 
sill, one story up; Brierley from the balcony, 
towel in hand, craned his head in attention; 
Louis left his seat in the kiosk, where he was 
at work on a morning sketch of the court, 
and I abandoned my chair at one of the tables: 
all listened and all watched for what was go- 
ing to happen. For happen something certainly 
must, with our pretty Mignon singing more 
merrily than ever. 

I, being nearest to the footlights, beckoned 
to old Lea carrying the coffee, and pointed in- 
quiringly to the blissful girl. 

"What's the meaning of all this, Lea? — ^what 
has happened? Your Mignon seemed joyous 
enough the other morning when she came from 
market, but now she is beside herself." 

The old woman lowered her voice, and, with 
a shake of her white cap, answered : 
30s 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

"Don't ask me any questions; I am too 
happy to tell you any lies and I won't tell you 
the truth. Ah! — see how cold monsieur's milk 
is — let me run to Pierre for another" — and she 
was ofF; her flying sabots, like the upturned 
feet of a duck chased to cover, kicking away 
behind her short skirts. 

Lemois, too, had heard the song and, picking 
up Coco, strolled toward me his fingers ca- 
ressing the bird, his uneasy glance directed 
toward the happy girl as he walked, wonder- 
ing, like the rest of us, at the change in her 
manner. To watch them together as I have 
done these many times, the old man smoothing 
its plumage and Coco rubbing his black beak 
tenderly against his master's cheek, is to get a 
deeper insight into our landlord's character and 
the subtle sympathy which binds the two. 

The bird once settled comfortably on his 
wrist, Lemois looked my way. 

"You should get him a mate, monsieur," I 
called to him in answer to his glance, throwing 
this out as a general drag-net. 

The old man shifted the bird to his shoulder, 
stopped, and looked down at me. 

"He is better without one. Half the trouble 
in the world comes from wanting mates; the 
306 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

other half comes from not knowing that this 
is true. My good Coco is not so stupid" — 
and he reached up and stroked the bird's crest 
and neck. "AH day long he ponders over what 
is going on down below him. And just think, 
monsieur, what does go on down below him in 
the season! The wrong man and the wrong 
woman most of the time, and the pressure of 
the small foot under the table, and the little 
note slipped under the napkin. Ah! — they 
don't humbug Coco! He laughs all day to 
himself — and I laugh too. There is nothing, 
if you think about it, so comical as life. It is 
really a Punch-and-Judy show, with one doll 
whacking away at the other — 'Now, will you 
be good! — ^Now, will you be good!' — and they 
are never good. No — no — never a mate for 
my Coco — ^never a mate for anybody if I can 
help it." 

"Would you have given the same advice 
thirty years ago to madame la marquise?" 
Madame was the one and only subject Lemois 
ever seemed to approach with any degree of 
hesitancy. My objective point was, of course, 
Mignon; but I had opened madame's gate, 
hoping for a short cut. 

"Ah! — madame is quite different," he re- 

307 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

plied with sudden gravity. "All the rules are 
broken in the case of a woman of fashion 
and of rank and of very great wealth. These 
people do not live for themselves — they are 
part of the State. But I will tell you one 
thing, Monsieur High-Muck, though you may 
not believe it, and that is that Madame la 
Marquise de la Caux was never so contented as 
she is at the present moment. She is free now 
to do as she pleases. Did you hear what Mon- 
sieur Le Blanc said last night about the way 
the work is being pressed? The old marquis 
would have been a year deciding on a plan; 
madame will have that villa on its legs and 
as good as new in a month. You know, of 
course, that she is coming down this after- 
noon !^ 

I knew nothmg of the kind, and told him so. 

"Yes; she sent me word last night by a mys- 
terious messenger, who left the note and dis- 
appeared before I could see him — Lea brought 
it to me. You see, madame is most anxious 
about her flowers for next year, and this after- 
noon I am going with her to a nursery and to 
a great garden overlooking the market-place to 
help her pick them out." Here he caressed his 
pet again. "No, Monsieur Coco, you will not 
308 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

be allowed down here in the court where your 
pretty white feathers and your unblemished 
morals might be tarnished by the dreadful peo- 
ple all about. You shall go up on your perch; 
it is much better" — and with a deprecatory 
wave of his hand he strolled up the court-yard. 
Coco still nibbling his cheek with his horny 
black beak, the old man crooning a little love 
song as he walked. 

I rose from my chair and began bawling out 
the good news of madame's expected visit to 
the occupants of the several windows, the 
effect being almost as starthng as had been 
Mignon's song. 

Instantly plans were cried down at me for 
her entertainment. Of course she must stay 
to dinner, our last one for the season! This 
was carried with a whoop. There must be, too, 
some kind of a special ceremony when the invi- 
tation was delivered. We must greet her at 
the door — all of us drawn up in a row, with 
Herbert stepping out of the ranks, saluting like 
a drum-major, and requesting the "distin- 
guished honor" — and the rest of it: that, too, 
was carried unanimously. Whatever her gar- 
dening costume, it would make no difference, 
and no excuse on this score would receive a 
309 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

moment's consideration. Madame even in a 
fisherman's tarpaulins would be welcome — 
provided only that she was really inside of 
them. 

With the whirl of her motor into the court- 
yard at dusk, and the breathing of its last 
wheeze in front of the Marmouset, the plump 
little woman sprang from her car muffled to 
her dimpled chin in a long waterproof, her two 
brown, squirrel eyes laughing behind her gog- 
gles. Instantly the importuning began, every- 
body crowding about her. 

Up went her hands. 

"No — please don't say a word and, what- 
ever you do, don't invite me to stay to din- 
ner, because I'm not going to; and that is my 
last word, and nothing will change my mind. 
Oh! — it is too banal — and you've spoiled every- 
thing. I didn't think I'd see anybody. Why 
are you not all in your rooms? Oh! — I am 
ready to cry with it all!" 

"But we can't think of your leaving us," I 
begged, wondering \yhat had disturbed her, but 
determined she should not go until we had 
found out. "Pierre has been at work all the 

morning and we " 

310 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

"No — it is I who have been working all the 
morning, digging in my garden, getting ready 
for the winter, and I am tired out, and so I 
will go back to my little bed in my dear garage 
and have my dinner alone." 

Here Herbert broke loose. "But, madame, 
you must dine with us; we have been counting 
on it." He had set his heart on another even- 
ing with the extraordinary woman and did not 
mean to be disappointed. 

"But, my dear Monsieur Herbert, you see, 
I " 

"And you really mean that you won't stay?" 
groaned Louis, his face expressive of the deep- 
est despair. 

"Stop! — stop! — I tell you, and hear me 
through. Oh! — ^you dreadful men! Just see 
what you have done: I had such a pretty little 
plan of my own — I've been thinking of it for 
days. I said to myself this morning: I'll go 
to the Inn after I have finished with Lemois 
— about six o'clock — ^when it is getting dark — 
quite too dark for a' lady to be even poking 
about alone. They will all be out walking or 
dressing for dinner, and I'll slip into the dar- 
ling Marmouset, just to warm myself a little, if 
there should be a fire, and then they will 
3" 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

come in and find me and be so surprised, and 
before any one of them can say a word I will 
shout out that I have come to dinner! And 
now you've ruined everything, and I must say, 
'Thank you, kind gentlemen' — like any other 
poor parishioner — and eat my bowl of bread 
and milk in the corner. Was there ever any- 
thing so banal? — Oh! — I'm heartbroken over it 
all. No; don't say another word — please, papa, 
I'll be a good girl. So help me off with my 
wraps, dear Monsieur Louis. No; wait until 
I get inside — ^you see, I've been gardening all 

day, and when one does gardening " 

The two were inside the Marmouset now, 
the others following, the laughter increasing as 
Louis led her to the hearth, where a fire had 
just been kindled. There he proceeded to 
unbutton her fur-lined motor-cloak — the laugh- 
ter changing to shouts of delight when free- 
ing herself from its folds. She stood before us 
a veritable Lebrun portrait, in a short black- 
velvet gown with wide fichu of Venetian lace 
rolled back from her plump shoulders, her throat 
circled with a string of tiny jewels from which 
drooped a pear-shaped pearl big as a pecan- 
nut and worth a king's ransom. 

'There!" she cried, her brown eyes dancing, 
312 



((' 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

her face aglow with her whirl through the crisp 
air. "Am I not too lovely, and is not my gar- 
dening costume perfect? You see, I am always 
careful to do my digging in black velvet and 
lace," and a low gurgling sound like the cooing 
of doves followed by a burst of uncontrollable 
laughter filled the room. 

If on her other visits she had captured us all 
by the charm of her personality, she drew the 
bond the tighter now. Then she had been the 
thorough woman of the world, adapting her- 
self with infinite tact to new surroundings, con- 
tributing her share to the general merriment — 
one of us, so to speak; to-night she was the 
elder sister. She talked much to Herbert about 
his new statue and what he expected to make 
of it. He must not, she urged, concern him- 
self alone with artistic values or the honors 
they would bring. He had gone beyond all 
these; his was a higher mission — one to bring 
the human side of the African savage to light 
and so help to overturn the prejudice of cen- 
turies, and nothing must swerve him from what 
she considered his lofty purpose — and there 
must be no weak repetition of his theme. 
Each new note he sounded must be stronger 
than the last. 

313 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

She displayed the same fine insight when, 
dinner over, she talked to Louis of his out-door 
work — especially the whirl and slide of his 
water. 

"You will forgive a woman, Monsieur Louis, 
who is old enough to be your great-grand- 
mother, when she tells you that, fine as your 
pictures are — and I know of no painter of our 
time who paints water as well — there are some 
things in the out of doors which I am sure you 
will yet put into your canvases. I am a fish- 
erman myself, and have thrashed many of 
the brooks you have painted, and there is noth- 
ing I love so much as to peer down into the 
holes where the little fellows live — way down 
among the pebbles and the brown moss and 
green of the water-plants. Can't we get this 
— or do I expect the impossible ? But if it could 
be done — if the bottom as well as the surface 
of the water could be given — would we not un- 
cover a fresh hiding-place of nature, and would 
not you — ^you. Monsieur Louis — be doing the 
world that much greater service? — the pleasure 
being more ours than yours — ^your reward being 
the giving of that pleasure to us. I hope you 
will all forgive me, but it has been such an in- 
spiration to meet you all. I get so smothered 
314 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

by the commonplace that sometimes I gasp for 
breath, and then I find some oasis Hke this and 
I open wide my soul and drink my fill. 

" But enough of all this. Let us have some- 
thing more amusing. Monsieur Brierley, won't 
you go to the spinet and — " Here she sprang 
from her chair. "Oh, I forgot all about it, 
and I put it in my pocket on purpose. Please 
some one look in my cloak for a roll of music; 
none of you I know have heard it before. It 
is an old song of Provence that will revive for 
you all your memories of the place. Thank you. 
Monsieur Brierley, and now lift the lid and I 
will sing it for you." And then there poured 
from her lips a voice so full and rich, with 
notes so liquid and sympathetic, that we stood 
around her in wonder doubting our ears. 

Never had we found her so charming nor so 
bewitching, nor so full of enchanting surprises. 

So uncontrollable were her spirits, always 
rising to higher flights, that I began at last to 
suspect that something outside of the inspira- 
tion of our ready response to her every play of 
fancy and wit was accountable for her be- 
wildering mood. 

The solution came when the coffee was served 
and fresh candles lighted and Lea and Mignon, 
31S 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

with a curtsy to the table and a gentle, furtive 
good-night to madame, had left the room. 
Then, quite as if their departure had started 
another train of thought, she turned and faced 
our landlord. 

"What a dear old woman is Lea, Lemois," 
she began in casual tones, "and what good care 
she takes of that pretty child; she is mother 
and sister and guardian to her. But she can- 
not be everything. There is always some other 
yearning in a young girl's heart which no woman 
can satisfy. You know that as well as I do. 
And this is why you are going to give Mignon 
to young Gaston. Is it not true?" she added 
in dissembling tones. 

Lemois moved uneasily in his chair. The 
question had come so unexpectedly, and was 
so direct, that for a moment he lost his poise. 
His own attitude, he supposed, had been made 
quite clear the night of the rescue, when he had 
denounced Gaston and forbidden Mignon to see 
him. Yet his manner was grave enough as he 
answered : 

"Madame has so many things to occupy her 

mind, and so many people to help, why should 

she trouble herself with those of my maid? 

Mignon is very happy here, and has everything 

316 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

she wants, and she will continue to have them 
as long as she is alive." 

"Then I see it is not true, and that you in- 
tend breaking her heart; and now will you 
please tell us why?" She looked at him and 
waited. There was a new ring — one of com- 
mand^n her voice. I understood now as I 
listened why it took so short a time for her to 
rebuild the villa. 

"Is madame the girl's guardian that she 
wishes to know?" asked Lemois. The words 
came with infinite courtesy, madame being the 
only woman of whom he stood in awe, but 
there was an undertone of opposition which, 
if aggravated, would, I felt sure, end in the old 
man's abrupt departure from the room. 

I tried to relieve the situation by saying how 
happy not only Mignon but any one of us 
would be with so brilliant an advocate as ma- 
dame pleading for our happiness, but she waved 
me aside with : 

"No — please don't. I want dear Lemois to 
answer. It was one of my reasons for coming 
to-night, and he must tell me. He is so kind 
and considerate, and he is always so sorry for 
anything that suffers. He loves flowers and 
birds and animals, and music and pictures and 
317 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

all beautiful things, and yet he is worse than 
one of the cannibals that Monsieur Herbert tells 
us about. They eat their young girls and have 
done with them — Lemois kills his by slow tort- 
ure — and so I ask you again, dear Lemois — 
why?" 

Everybody sat up straight. How would Le- 
mois take it? His fingers began to work, and 
the corners of his mouth straightened. A sud- 
den flush crossed his habitually pale face. We 
were sure now of an outbreak: what would 
happen then none of us dared think. 

"Madame la marquise," he began slowly — 
too slowly for anything but ill-suppressed feel- 
ing — " there is no one that I know for whom 
I have a higher respect; you must yourself 
have seen that in the many years I have known 
you. You are a very good and a very noble 
woman; all your life people have loved you — 
they still love you. It is one of your many 
gifts — one you should be thankful for. Some 
of us do not win this affection. You are, if you 
will permit me to say it, never lonely nor alone, 
except by your own choosing. Some of us can- 
not claim that — I for one. Do you not now 
understand?" He was still boiling inside, but 
the patience of the trained landlord and the 
318 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

innate breeding of the man had triumphed. 
And then, again, it would be a rash Frenchman 
of his class who would defy a woman of her 
exalted rank. 

Over her face crept a pleased look — ^as if she 
held some trump card up her sleeve — and one 
of her cooing, bubbling laughs escaped her lips. 

"You are not telling me the truth, you dear 
Lemois. I am not in love with Gaston, the fish- 
erman, nor are you with our pretty Mignon, 
Neither you nor I have anything to do with 
it. Here are two young people whose happi- 
ness is trembling in the balance. You hold 
the scales — that is, you claim to, although the 
girl is neither your child nor your ward and 
could marry without your consent, and would 
if she did not love you for yourself and for all 
you have done for her. Answer me now — do 
you object because Gaston is a fisherman?" 

Whether her knowledge of Lemois' legal 
rights — and she had stated them correctly — 
softened him, or whether he saw a loophole 
for himself, was not apparent, but the answer 
came with a certain surrender. 

"Yes. It is a dangerous Hfe. You have only 
to live here, as I have done, to count the women 
who bid their men good-by and watch in the 
319 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

gray dawn for the boat that never comes back 
— Mignon's elder brothers in one of them. I 
do not want her to go through that agony — 
she is young yet — some one else will come. The 
first love is not always the last — except in the 
case of madame" — and he smiled in strange 
fashion. The bomb was still within reach of 
his hand, but the fuse had gone out. 

"Then it isn't Gaston himself?" she de- 
manded with unflinching gaze. 

"No — he is an honest lad; good to his 
mother; industrious — a brave fellow. He has, 
too, so I hear, a place in the market — one of 
the stalls — so he is getting on, and will soon be 
one of our best citizens." He would talk all 
night about Gaston, and pleasantly, if she 
wished. 

"Well, if he were a notary? Would that be 
different?" Her soft brown eyes were hardly 
visible between their lids, but they were burn- 
ing with an intense light. 

"Yes, it might be." Same air of nonchalance 
— anything to please the dehghtful woman. 

"Or a chemist?" — ^just a slit between the 
lids now, with little flashes along the edges. 

"Or a chemist," intoned Lemois. 

"Or a head gardener, perhaps?" Both eyes 
320 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

tight shut under the fluffy gray hair, an in- 
tense expression on her face. 

"Why not say a minister of state, madame?" 
laughed Lemois. 

"No — no — don't you dare run away like 
that. Stand to your guns, monsieur. If he 
were a head gardener, then what?" 

Lemois rose from his chair, laid his hand on 
his shirt-front, and bowed impressively. He 
was evidently determined to humor her passing 
whim. 

"If he were a head gardener I would not 
have the slightest objection, madame." 

She sprang to her feet and began clapping 
her plump hands, her laughter filling the room. 

"Oh! — I am so happy! You heard what he 
said — all of you. You, Monsieur Herbert — and 
you — and you" — pointing to each member of 
our group. "If he were a head gardener! Oh, 
was there ever such luck! And do you listen 
too, you magnificent Lemois! Gaston is a 
head gardener; has been a head gardener for 
days; every one of the plants you bought for 
me to-day he will put into the ground with 
his own hands. His mother will have the stall 
I bought in the fish market, and he and Mignon 
are to live in the new garage, and he is to have 
321 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

charge of the villa grounds, and she is to man- 
age the dairy and the linen and look after the 
chickens and the ducks. And the wedding is 
to take place just as soon as you give your con- 
sent; and if you don't consent, it will take 
place anyway, for I am to be godmother and 
she is to have a dot and all the furniture they 
want out of what was saved from my house, 
and that's all there is to it — except that both 
of them know all about it, for I sent Gaston 
down here last night with a note for you, 
and he told Mignon, and it's all settled — now 
what do you say?" 

A shout greeted her last words, and the 
whole room broke spontaneously into a clap- 
ping of hands, Louis, as was his invariable cus- 
tom whenever excuse offered, on his feet, glass 
in hand, proposing the health of that most 
adorable of all women of her own or any other 
time, past, present, or future — at which the 
dear, penguin-shaped lady in black velvet and 
lace raised her dainty white palms in holy hor- 
ror, protesting that it was Monsieur Lemois 
whose health must be drunk, as without him 
nothing could have been done, the clear tones 
of her voice rising like a bird's song above the 
others as she sprang forward, grasped Lemois' 
322 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

hand and lifted him to his feet, the whole 
room once more applauding. 

Yes, it was a great moment! Mignon's hap- 
piness was very dear to us, but that which capt- 
ured us completely was the daring and clever- 
ness of the little woman who had worked for it, 
and who was so joyous over her success and so 
childishly enthusiastic at the outcome. 

Lemois, unable to stem the flood of rejoicing, 
seemed to have surrendered and given up the 
fight, complimenting the marquise upon her 
diplomacy, and the way in which she had en- 
tirely outgeneralled an old fellow who was not 
up to the wiles of the world. "Such a mean 
advantage, madame, to take of a poor old man," 
he continued, bowing low, a curious, unreadable 
expression crossing his face. "I am, as you 
know, but clay in your hands, as are all the 
others who are honored by your acquaintance. 
But now that I am tied to your chariot wheels, 
I must of course take part in your triumphal 
procession; so permit me to make a few sug- 
gestions." 

The marquise laughed gently, but with a puz- 
zled look in her eyes. She was not sure what he 
was driving at, but she did not interrupt him. 

"We will have an old-time wedding," he con- 
323 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

tinued gayly, with a comprehensive wave of his 
hand as if he were arranging the stage setting 
— "something quite in keeping with the general 
sentiment; for certain it is that not since the 
days when fair ladies let themselves down from 
castle walls into the arms of their plumed 
knights, only to dash away into space on milk- 
white steeds, will there be anything quite so 
romantic as this child-wedding!" 

"And so you mean to have a rope ladder, do 
you, and let my " 

"Oh, no, madame la marquise," he inter- 
rupted — "nothing so ordinary! We" — here he 
began rubbing his hands together quite as if he 
was ordering a dinner for an epicure — "we will 
have a revival of all the old customs just as 
they were in this very place. Our bride will 
join her lord in a cabriolet, and our groom will 
come on horseback — all fishermen ride, you 
know — and so will the other fishermen and 
maids — each gallant with a fair lady seated 
behind him on the crupper, her arms about his 
waist. Then we will have trumpeters and a 
garter man " 

"A what!" She was still at sea as to his 
meaning, although she had not missed the tone 
of irony in his voice. 

324 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

"A man, madame, whose duty is to secure 
one of the bride's garters. Oh, you need not 
start — that is quite simply arranged. The old- 
time brides always carried an extra pair to save 
themselves embarrassment. The one for the 
garter-man will be trimmed with ribbons which 
he will cut off and distribute to the other 
would-be brides, who will keep them in their 
prayer-books." 

"Lea, for instance," chimed in Louis, wink- 
ing at Herbert. 

"Lea, for instance, my dear Monsieur Louis. 
I know of no better mate for a man— and it is 
a pity you are too young." 

The laugh was on Louis this time, but the 
old man kept straight on, his subtle irony 
growing more pointed as he continued: "And 
then, madame, when it is all over and the couple 
retire for the night — and of course we will give 
them the best room in our house, they being 
most distinguished personages — none other than 
Monsieur Gaston Dupre, Lord of the Lobster 
Pot, Duke of Buezval, and Grand Marshal of 
the Deep Sea, and Mademoiselle Mignon, Prin- 
cess of " 

The marquise drew herself up to her full 
height. " Stop your nonsense, Lemois. I won't 
32s 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

let you say another word; you shan't ridicule 
my young people. Stop it, I say!" 

"Oh, but wait, madame — please hear me out 
— I have not finished. These pewter dishes 
must also come into service" — and he caught 
up the two bowls from the tops of the great 
andirons behind him — "these we will fill with 
spices steeped in mulled wine, which, as I tried 
to say, we will send to their Royal Highnesses' 
bedroom — after they are tucked away in " 

"No! — no! — ^we will do nothing of the kind; 
everything shall be just the other way. There 
will be no horses, no cabriolet, no trumpeters, 
no garters except the ones the dear child will 
wear, and no mulled wine. We will all go on 
foot, and the only music will be the organ in 
the old church, and the breakfast will be here, 
in our beloved Marmouset, and the punch will 
be mixed by Monsieur Brierley in the Ming 
bowl I brought, and Monsieur Louis will serve 
it, and then they will both go to their own 
home and sleep in their own bed. So there! 
Not another word, for it is all settled and fin- 
ished " — and one of her rippling, joyous laughs 
— a whole dove-cote mingled with any number 
of silver bells — quivered through the room. 

Lemois joined in the merriment, shrugging 
326 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

his inscrutable shoulders, repeating that he, of 
course, was only a captive, and must therefore 
do as he was bid, a situation which, he added 
with another low bow, had its good side since 
so charming a woman as madame held his chain. 

And yet despite his gayety there was under it 
all a certain reserve which, although lost on the 
others, convinced me that the old man had not, 
by any means, made up his mind as to what 
he would do. While Mignon was not his legal 
ward, his care of her all these years must count 
for something. Madame, of course, was a dif- 
ficult person to make war upon once she had 
set her heart on a thing — and she certainly had 
on this marriage, amazing as it was to him — 
and yet there was still the girl's future to be 
considered, and with it his own. All this was 
in his eyes as I watched him resuming his place 
by the fire after some of the excitement had 
begun to quiet down. 

But none of this — even if she, too, had sttidied 
him as I had — ^would have made any impres- 
sion on Mignon's champion. She was accus- 
tomed to being obeyed — the gang of mechanics, 
who had under her directions performed two- 
days' work in one had found that out. And: 
then, again, her whole purpose in. life was to 
327 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

befriend especially those girls who, having no 
one to stand by them, become broken down by 
opposition and so marry where their hearts sel- 
dom lead. How many had she taken under her 
wing — how many more would she protect as 
long as she lived ! 

Before she bade us good-night all the wed- 
ding details were sketched out, our landlord 
listening and nodding his head whenever appeal 
was made to him, but committing himself by 
no further speech. The ceremony, she declared 
gayly— and it must be the most beautiful and 
brilliant of ceremonies — ^would take place in 
the old twelfth-century church, at the end of 
the street, from which the great knights of old 
had sallied forth and where a new knight, one 
Monsieur Gaston, would follow in their foot- 
steps — not for war, but for love — a much bet- 
ter career — this, with an additional toss of her 
head at the silent Lemois. There would be 
flowers and perhaps music — she would see about 
that — but no trumpeters — and again she looked 
at Lemois — and everybody from Buezval would 
be invited — all the fishermen, of course, and 
their white-capped mothers and sisters and 
aunts, and cousins for that matter — everybody 
who would come; and Pierre and her own chef 
328 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

from Rouen would prepare the wedding break- 
fast if dear Lemois would consent — and if he 
didn't consent, it would be cooked anyhow, and 
brought in ready to be eaten — and in this very 
room with every one of us present. 

"And now. Monsieur Louis, please get me 
my cloak, and will one of you be good enough 
to tell my chauffeur I am ready ? — and one thing 
more, and this I insist on: please don't any of 
you move — and, whatever you do, don't bid me 
good-by. I want to carry away with me just 
the picture I am looking at: Monsieur Her- 
bert there in his chair between the two live 
heads — ^yes, I believe it now — and Messieurs 
Louis and Brierley and Le Blanc, and our 
delightful host, and dear tantalizing Lemois, 
by the hearth — and the queer figures looking 
down at us through the smoke of our ciga- 
rettes — and the glow of the candles, and the 
light of the lovely fire to which you have wel- 
comed me. Au revoir, messieurs — ^you have 
made me over new and I am very happy, and 
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!" 

And she was gone. 

When the door was shut behind her, Herbert 
strolled to the fire and stood with his face to 
329 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

the flickering blaze. We all remained stand- 
ing, paying unconscious homage to her memory. 
For some seconds no one spoke. Then, turn- 
ing and facing the group, Herbert said, half 
aloud, as if communing with himself: 

"A real woman — human and big, half a dozen 
such would revolutionize France. And she 
knows — that is the best part of it" — and his 
voice grew stronger — "she knows! You may 
think you've reached the bottom of things — 
thought them all out, convinced you are right, 
even steer your course by your deductions — 
and here comes along a woman who lifts a lid 
uncovering a well in your soul you never 
dreamed of, and your conclusions go sky-high. 
And she does it so cleverly, and she is so sane 
about it all. If she were where I could get at 
her now and then I'd do something worth 
while. I've made up my mind to one thing, 
anyhow — I'm going to pull to pieces the thing 
I set up before I came down here and start 
something new. I've got another idea in my 
head — something a little more human." 

"Isn't 'The Savage' human, Herbert?" I 
asked, filling his glass as I spoke, to give him 
time for reply. 

"No; it's only African — one phase of a race. 
330 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

"How about your 'group,' 'They Have 
Eyes and They See Not?" asked Brierley, who 
had drawn up a chair and stood leaning over 
its back, gazing into the fire. 

"A little better, but not much. The Great 
Art is along other lines — bigger, higher, stronger 
— more universal lines, one that has nothing 
racial about it, one that expresses the human 
heart no matter what the period or nationality. 
The 'Prodigal Son' is a drama which has been 
understood and is still understood by the whole 
earth irrespective of creed or locality. It ap- 
peals to the savage and the savant alike arid 
always will to the end of time. So with the 
Milo. She is Greek, English, or Slav at your 
option, but she will live forever because she 
expresses the divine essence of maternity which 
is eternal. It is this, and only this, which 
compels. I have had glimmerings of it all my 
life. Madame cleared out the cobwebs for me 
in a flash. A great woman — real human." 

Then noticing that no one had either inter- 
rupted his outburst or moved his position, he 
glanced around the group and, as if in doubt as 
to the way his outburst had been received, 
said simply: 

"Well, speak up; am I right or wrong? 

331 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

You don't seem to see it as I do. How did 
she appeal to you, Brierley?" 

The young fellow stepped in front of his 
chair and dropped into its depths. 

"You are dead right, Herbert; you are, any- 
how, about the Milo. I never go into her 
presence without lifting my hat, and I have 
kept it up for years. But you don't do your- 
self justice, old man. Some of your things will 
live as long as they hold together. How- 
ever" — and he laughed knowingly — "that's for 
posterity to settle. How does madame appeal 
to me? you ask. Well, being a many-sided 
woman — ^no frills, no coquetry, nor sham — she 
appeals to me more as a comrade than in any 
other way — ^just plain comrade. Half the 
women one meets of her age and class have 
something of themselves to conceal, giving you 
a side which they are not, or trying to give it 
for you to read at first sight. She gave us her 
worst side first — or what we thought was her 
worst side — and her best last." 

"And you, Le Blanc?" resumed Herbert. 
"She's your countrywoman; let's have it." 

"Oh, I don't know, Herbert. I, of course, 
have heard of her for years, and she was there- 
fore not so much of a surprise to me as she was 
332 



A WOMAN'S WAY 

to you all. If, however, you want me to get 
down to something fundamental, I'll tell you 
that she confirms a theory I have always had 
that — But I won't go into that. It's our 
last night together and we " 

"No; go on. This interests me enormously, 
especially her personality. We'll have our 
nightcap later on." 

"Well, all right," and he squared himself to- 
ward Herbert. "She confirms, as I said, a 
theory of mine — one I have always had, that 
the Great Art — that for which the world is wait- 
ing — is not so much the creation of statues, 
if you will pardon me, as the creation of a better 
understanding of women by men. Not of their 
personalities, but of their impersonalities. Most 
women are afraid to let themselves go, not know- 
ing how we will take them, and because of this 
fear we lose the best part of a woman's nature. 
She dares not do a great many generous things 
— sane, kindly, human things — because she is; 
in dread of being misunderstood. She is even; 
afraid to love some of us as intensely as she 
would. Madame dares everything and could 
never be misunderstood. All doubts of her' 
were swept out in her opening sentence the 
night she arrived. She ought to found a school! 

333 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

and teach women to be themselves, then we'd 
all be that much happier." 

"And now, Louis," persisted Herbert, "come, 
we're waiting. No shirking, and no nonsense. 
Just the plain truth. How does she appeal to 
you?" 

"As a dead game sport, Herbert, and the 
best ever! Every man on his feet and I'll 
give you a toast that is as short and sweet as 
her adorable self. 

"Here's to our friend, Madame la Marquise 
de la Caux— THE WOMAN." 



334 



XV 
APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

/'^OCO, the snow-white cockatoo, on his perch 
high up in the roof dormer overlooking the 
court, is having the time of his life. To see 
and hear the better, he wobbles back and forth 
to the end of his wooden peg, steadying himself 
by his black beak, and then, straightening up, ' 
unfurls his yellow celery top of a crest and, with 
a quick toss of his head, shrieks out his delight. 
He wants to know what it is all about, and 
I don't blame him. No such hurrying and 
scurrying has been seen in the court-yard below 
since the morning the players came down from 
Paris and turned the sixteenth-century quad- 
rangle into a stage-setting for an old-time com- 
edy: new gravel is being raked and sifted over 
the open space; men on step-ladders are trim- 
ming up the vines and setting out plants on 
top of the kiosks; others are giving last touches 
to the tulip-beds and the fresh sod along the 
borders, while two women are scrubbing the 
chairs and tables under the arbors. 
335 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

As for the Inn's inhabitants, everybody seems 
to have lost their wits: Pierre has gone en- 
tirely mad. When butter, or eggs, or milk, or 
a pint of sherry — or something he needs, or 
thinks he needs — is wanted, he does not wait 
until his under-chef can bring it from the stor- 
age-cave where they are kept — he rushes out 
himself, grabbing up a basket, or pitcher, or 
cup as he goes, and comes back on the double- 
quick to begin again his stirring, chopping, and 
basting — the roasting-spit turning merrily all 
the while. 

Lea is even more restless. Her activities, 
however, are confined to clattering along the 
upstairs corridors, her arms full of freshly 
ironed clothes — skirts and things — and to the 
banging of chamber doors — one especially, be- 
hind which sits an old fishwoman, yellow as a 
dried mackerel and as stiff, helping a young 
girl dress. 

The only one who seems to have kept his 
head is Lemois. His nervousness is none the 
less in evidence, but he gets rid of his pent- 
up steam in a different way. He lets the 
others hustle, while he stands still just inside 
the gate giving orders to hurrying market boys 
with baskets of fish; signing receipts for cases 
336 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

filled with poultry and early vegetables just in 
by the morning train from Caen; or firing in- 
structions to his gardeners and workmen — self- 
contained as a ball governor on a horizontal 
engine and seemingly as inert, yet an index 
of both pressure and speed. 

All this time Coco keeps up his hullabaloo, 
nobody paying the slightest attention. Sud- 
denly there comes an answering cry and the 
cockatoo snaps his beak tight with a click and 
listens intently, his head on one side. It is 
the shriek of a siren — a long-drawn, agonizing 
wail that strikes the bird dumb with envy. 
Nearer it comes — nearer — now at the turn 
of the street; now just outside the gate, and 
in whirls Herbert's motor, the painter beside 
him. 

"Ah! — Lemois — the top of the morning to 
you and yours!" Louis' stentorian voice rings 
out. "Never saw a better one come out of the 
skies. Out with you, Herbert. Are we the first 
to arrive? Here, give me that basket of grapes 
and box of bonbons. A magnificent run, Le- 
mois. Left Paris at five o'clock, while the milk 
was going its rounds; spun through Lisieux 
before they were wide awake; struck the coast, 
and since then nothing but apple-bloom — one 
337 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

great pink-and-white bedquilt up hill and 
down dale. Glorious! I want a whole tree, full 
of blossoms, remember — ^just as I wrote you— 
none of your mean little chopped-ofF twigs, but 
a cart-load of branches. Let me have that old 
apple-tree out in the lot in front — the apples 
were never any good, and Mignon may as well 
have the blossoms as those thieving boys. Did 
you send word to the school children? Yes, of 
course you did. Oh, I tell you, Herbert, we 
are going to have a bully time — Paul and Vir- 
ginia are not in it. Hello ! Lea, you up there, 
you blessed old carved root of a virgin ! — ^where's 
the adorable Mignon?" 

"Good-morning, Monsieur Louis — and you 
too, Monsieur Herbert," came her voice in reply 
from the rail of the gallery above our heads. 
"Mignon is inside," and she pointed to the 
closed door behind her. "Gaston's mother 
is helping her. Madame la marquise will be 
here any minute, and so will Monsieur Le Blanc 
and everybody from Buezval. Oh ! — ^you should 
see my child! You wouldn't know her in the 
pretty clothes madame has sent." 

And now while Herbert is digging out from 
under the motor seats various packages tied 
with white ribbons, including the drawing he 
338 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

made of Lea, now richly framed, and which 
with the aid of the old woman he carried up 
the crooked stairway and deposited at a cer- 
tain door, I will tell you what all this excite- 
ment is about. 

Madame la marquise has had her way. Not 
an instantaneous and complete victory. There 
had been parleyings, of course, after that event- 
ful night some months before when she had 
outgeneralled and then defied Lemois, and con- 
cessions had been made, both sides yielding a 
little; but before we separated for our homes 
we felt sure that the old man either had or 
would surrender. 

"Well, let it be as you will," he had said 
with a sigh; "but not now. In the spring 
when the apple-blossoms are in bloom — and 
then perhaps you may come back." 

To me, however, who had stayed on for a 
few days, he had, late one afternoon, poured 
out his whole heart. The twilight had begun 
to settle in the Marmouset, and the last glow 
of the western sky creeping through the stained- 
glass windows was falling upon the old Span- 
ish leather and gold crowned saints and figures, 
warming them into rich harmonies, when I had 
stolen inside the wonderful room to take one 
339 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

of my last looks — an old habit of mine in a 
place I love. There I found him hunched up 
in Herbert's chair at one corner of the fire^ 
place, his head on his hand. 

"Well, you have won your fight," he had 
said in a low, measured voice, speaking into 
the bare chimney, his fingers still supporting his 
forehead. "You will take my child from me 
and leave me alone." 

"But she will be much happier," I now 
ventured. 

"Perhaps so — I cannot tell. I have seen 
many a bright sunrise end in a storm. But 
none of you have understood me. You thought 
it was money, and what the man could bring 
her, and that I objected because the boy was 
poor and a fisherman. What am I but a man 
of the people? — ^what is she but a peasant? — 
and her mother and grandmother before her. 
Who are we that we should try to rise above 
our station, making ourselves a laughing-stock ? 
Had he been a land-owner with a thousand 
head of cattle it would have been the same 
with me. Nothing will be as it was any more. 
I am an old man and she is all the child I have. 
When she was eight years old she would come- 
into this very room and nestle close in my lap, 
340 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

and I would talk to her by the hour — she and 
I alone, the fire lighting up the dark. And so 
it was when she grew up. It is only of late 
that she has shut herself away from me. I de- 
serve it maybe — she must marry somebody, 
and I would not have it otherwise — but why 
must it be now? I do not blame madame la 
marquise. She is an enthusiastic woman whose 
heart often runs away with her head; but she 
is honest and sincere. She had only the child's 
happiness in view, and she will be a mother to 
them both as long as she lives, as she is to 
many others I know." 

He had paused for a moment, I standing still 
beside him, and had then gone on, the words 
coming slowly, like the dropping of water: 

"You remember Monsieur Herbert's story, 
do you not, of the old mould-maker who lost 
his daughter, and who died in his chair, his 
clay masks grinning down at him from the 
skylight above? Well, I am he. Just as they 
grinned at the old mould-maker, his daughter 
gone, so in my loneliness will my figures grin at 
me. 

This had been in late October. 

What the dull winter had been to him I 
never knew, but he had not gone back on his 
341 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

word, and now that the apple-blossoms were 
in bloom, and the orchards a blaze of glory, the 
wedding day, just as he had promised, had ar- 
rived ! 

No wonder, then. Coco is screaming at the 
top of his voice; no wonder the court-yard is 
swept by a whirlwind of flying feetj no wonder 
the upstairs chamber door, with Lea as guar- 
dian angel, is opened and shut every few min- 
utes, hiding the girl behind it; and no wonder 
that Herbert's impatient car, every spoke in its 
wheels trembling with excitement, is puffing 
with eagerness to make the run to the old 
apple-tree in the outer lot, and so on to the 
church, loaded to its extra tires with a carpet 
of blossoms for Mignon's pretty feet. 

No wonder, either, that before Herbert's car, 
with Louis in charge of the blossom raid, had 
cleared the back gate, there had puffed in 
another motor — two this time — Le Blanc in 
one, with his friend. The Architect, beside him, 
the seats packed full of children, their faces 
scrubbed to a phenomenal cleanliness, their 
hair skewered with gay ribbons, all their best 
clothes on their backs; madame la marquise 
and Marc in the other, an old weather-beaten 
fisherman — an uncle of Gaston's, too lame to 
342 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

walk — beside her, and bundled up on the back 
seat two lean withered fishwomen in black 
bombazine and close-fitting white caps — a 
cousin and an aunt of the groom — the first 
time any one of the three had ever stepped 
foot in a car. 

As madame and her strange crew entered the 
court, I turned instinctively to Lemois, won- 
dering how he would deport himself when the 
crucial moment arrived — and a car-load of rela- 
tives certainly seemed to express that fatality 
— but he was equal to the occasion. 

"Ah, madame!" he said in his courtliest 
manner, his hand over his heart, "who else in 
the wide world would have thought of so kindly 
an act? These poor people will bless you to 
their dying day. And it is delightful to see you 
again. Monsieur Marc. You have, I know, 
come to help madame in her good works. As 
I have so often told her, she is " 

"And why should I not give them pleasure, 
you dear Lemois? See how happy they are. 
And this is not half of them ! No, don't get out, 
mere Francine — ^you are all to keep on to the 
church and get into your seats before the vil- 
lage people crowd it full; and you, Auguste" — 
this to her chauffeur — "are to go back to Buez- 
343 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

val for the others — they are all waiting." Here 
she espied Herbert on a ladder tacking some 
blossoms over the doorway. "Ah! — monsieur, 
aren't you very happy it has turned out so well? 
I caught only a glimpse of you as you dashed 
past a few minutes ago or I should have held 
you up and made you bring the balance of the 
old fishwomen. They are all crazy to come. 
Ah! but you needn't to have come down. It 
is so good to see you again," and she shook his 
hand heartily. "But what a morning for a 
wedding! Did you notice as you came along 
the shore road the httle pufF clouds skipping 
out to sea for very joy and hear the birds split- 
ting their throats in song? Even my own head 
is getting turned with all this billing and coo- 
ing, and I warn all of you right here" — and 
she swept her glance over the men gathered 
about her, her eyes twinkling in merriment — 
"that you must be very careful to keep out 
of my way or the first thing you know one of 
you will be whisked off to the altar and mar- 
ried before you know it. And now I am going 
upstairs to see how my little bride gets on, if 
Monsieur Marc will be good enough to carry 
my heavy wraps inside." 

She turned, stopped for an instant attracted 
344 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

by something she saw through the archway of 
the court, and burst into a peal of ringing 
laughter. 

"Oh! — come here quick, every one of you, 
and see what's driving in! It's Monsieur 
Brierley in the dearest of donkey carts. Where 
did you get that absurd little beast?" 

"Whoa! Victor Hugo!" shouted Brierley, 
springing from the cart (both together wouldn't 
have covered the space occupied by an upright 
piano). "I found him last fall, my dear ma- 
dame la marquise, in a stable in Caen, kicking 
out the partitions, and brought him home to 
my Abandoned Farm by the Marsh to add a 
touch of hilarity to my surroundings. He 
wakes me every morning with his hind feet 
against the door of his stable and is a most en- 
gaging and delightful companion. Hello! Le- 
mois, and — you here, Herbert! Shake! — awful 
glad to see you. Where's Louis? — gone for 
blossoms? — ^just like him. I tried to get here 
earlier, to help you all, but Victor Hugo is pe- 
culiar and considerably set in his ways, and if 
I had tried to overpersuade him he might still 
be a mile down the road with his feet anchored 
in the mud. 

"Take a look inside my cart, will you, Her- 

345 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

bert? My contribution to start the young 
■couple housekeeping" — and he pulled ofF a cov- 
ering of clean straw — "six dozen eggs, a pair 
of mallards — shot them yesterday, and about 
the last of them this season, and no business 
to shoot even these — a basket of potatoes, a 
dozen of pear jam — in family jars — and a 
small keg of apple-jack — the two last, the 
sweet and the strong, to be eaten and drank to- 
gether to keep peace in the house. No, don't 
take Hugo out of the shafts, Lemois, and don't 
say anything about its being meal-time, not 
loud enough for him to hear. When the fun 
is over I'm going to drive him down to ma- 
dame's garage and pack the housekeeping stuff 
away in Mignon's cupboard." 

Long before noon the court-yard, as well 
as the archway and the kiosks and arbors, 
had begun to fill up, the news of the extraor- 
dinary proceedings having brought everybody 
ahead of time. There was the mayor, wearing 
his tricolor sash and insignia of oifice, and with 
him his stout, double-chinned wife in black silk 
and white gloves — bareheaded, except for a gold 
ornament that looked like a bunch of twisted 
hair-pins; there were the apochecary and the 
notary and the man who sold pottery, not for- 
346 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

getting the bustling, outspoken fat doctor who- 
had sewed up Gaston's head the time madameV 
villa went sliddering toward the sea — or tried 
to — as well as all the great and small folk of 
the village who claimed the least little bit of 
acquaintance with any one connected with the 
function from Lemois down. 

Why the distinguished Madame la Marquise 
de la Caux — to say nothing of Lemois and th& 
equally distinguished sculptors, painters, and 
authors, some of whom were well known tO' 
them by reputation — should make all this fus» 
about a simple little serving-maid who had 
brought them their coffee — a waif, really,, 
picked from between the cobbles — one like a 
dozen others the village over, except for her 
beauty — ^was a question no one of them had 
been able to answer. Was it a whim of the 
great lady? — for it was well known she had 
made the match — or was there something else 
behind it all? (a mystery, by the way, which 
they are still trying to solve; disinterested 
kindness being the most incomprehensible thing 
in the world to some people). The notary was 
particularly outspoken in his opinion. He even 
criticised the great woman herself from behind 
his hand to the apothecary, whose upper room 
347 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

he occupied. " Been much better if these people 
of high degree had stayed at home and let the 
two young people enjoy themselves in their own 
way. Great mistake mixing the classes." But, 
then, the notary is the mouth-piece of the rev- 
olutionary party in the village and hates the 
aristocracy as a singed cat does the fire. 

Soon there came a shout from the gallery 
over our heads, and we all looked up. Lea, 
her wrinkled face aglow with that same inner 
light, the rays struggling through her rusty 
skin, craned her head over the rail. Then 
came Mignon, madame close behind, pushing 
her veil aside so we could all see her face — the 
girl blushing scarlet, but too happy to do more 
than laugh and bow and make little dumb nods 
with her head, hiding her face as best she could 
behind Lea's angular shoulders. 

"Yes, we are all ready, and are coming down 
the back stairs, and will meet you at the gate," 
cried madame when she had released the girl 
— "and it's time to start." 

Mignon's passage along the corridor, fol- 
lowed by madame and Lea and Gaston's old 
mother, roused a murmur of welcome which 
swelled into an outburst of joyous enthusiasm 
as her feet touched the level of the court, and 

348 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

continued until she had joined Gaston and the 
others already formed in line for the march to 
the church. 

And a wonderful procession it was! 

First, of course, came the mayor — his worthy 
spouse on his left. "The State before the 
Church," madame la marquise remarked with 
a sly twinkle, "and quite as it should be," 
rabid anti-clerical as she was. 

Close behind stepped Lemois in a frock-coat 
buttoned to his chin, his grave, thoughtful face 
framed in a high collar and black cravat — ^like 
an old diplomat at a court function — Mignon 
on his arm: Such a pretty, shrinking, timid 
Mignon, her lashes lifting and settling as if 
afraid to raise her eyes lest some one should 
find a dhink through which they could peep 
into her heart. 

Next came Louis escorting dear old Lea! 

There was a picture for you ! Had she been 
a duchess the rollicking young painter could not 
have treated her with more deference, bearing 
himself aloft, his chest out, handing her over 
the low "thank-ye-marm" at the street corner— 
the old woman, straight as her bent shoulders 
would allow, calm, self-contained, but near 
bursting with a joy that would drown her in 
349 



THE AEM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

tears if she gave way but an instant — and all 
with a quiet dignity that somehow, when you 
looked at her, sent a lump to your throat. 

And then madame and Gaston ! — she stepping 
free and alive, her little feet darting in and out 
below her rich, short gown, her eyes dancing; 
he swinging along beside her with that quick, 
alert step of the young who have always 
stretched their muscles to the utmost, his sun- 
burnt skin twice as dark from the mad rush of 
blood through his veins; abashed at the great 
honor thrust upon him, and yet with that cer- 
tain poise and independence common to men 
who have fought and won and can fight and 
win again. 

And last — amused, glad to lend a hand, en- 
joying it all to the full — Herbert, and Gaston's 
poor old broken-down-with-hard-work mother 
— stiff, formal, scared out of her seven wits — 
trying to smile as she ambled along, her mouth 
dry, her knees shaking — the rest of us bringing 
up the rear — Brierley, Le Blanc, The Archi- 
tect, Marc, and I walking together. 

But the greatest sight was at the church — 

it was but a short step, — the mayor, as he 

reached it, bowing right and left to the throng, 

the sacristan pushing his way through the 

3 SO 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

school children massed in two rows on either 
side of the flower-strewn path, their hands filled 
with Louis' blossoms; back of these the rest 
of the villagers — those who wanted to see the 
procession, and crowding the doorway and 
well inside the aisles, every soul who could 
claim admission for miles around. And then 
as we passed under the old portal — through 
which, so the legend runs, strode the Great 
Warrior surrounded by his knights (not a word 
of which do I believe) — the small organ with 
a spasmodic jerk wheezed out a welcome that 
went on increasing in volume until we had 
moved beneath the groined arches and reached 
the altar. There we grouped ourselves in a 
half-circle while the vows were pledged and the 
small gold ring was slipped on Mignon's finger 
and Gaston had kissed Mignon; and Mignon 
had kissed her new mother; and madame la 
marquise had taken both their hands in her 
own and said how happy she was, and how she 
wished them all the joy in the world. And 
then — and this was the crowning joy of the 
ceremony — then, like the old cavalier he is, and 
can be when occasion demands, Lemois stepped 
up and shook Gaston's hand, Mignon looking 
at the old man with hungry, loving eyes until, 
351 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

unable to restrain herself the longer, she threw 
her arms around his neck and burst jnto tears — 
and so, with another wheeze of the organ, way 
was made and the homeward march began. 

It was high noon now — the warm spring sun 
in both their faces — Mignon on Gaston's arm. 
And a fine and wholesome pair they made — 
good to look upon, and all as it should and 
would oftener be if meddlesome cooks could 
keep their fingers out of the social broth: she 
in her pretty white musHn frock and veil, her 
head up, her eyes shining clear — she didn't 
care now who saw; Gaston in his country-cut 
clothes (his muscles would stretch them into 
lines of beauty before the week was out), his 
new straw hat with its gay ribbon half shading 
his fine, strong young face; his eyes drinking in 
everything about him — too supremely happy ta 
do more than walk and breathe and look. 

Everything was ready for them at the Mar- 
mouset. Lemois had not been a willing ally, but 
having once sworn allegiance he had gone over 
heart and soul. The young people and their 
friends — as well as his own — including the ex- 
alted lady and her band of conspirators, should, 
want for nothing at his hands. 

Louis and Lea, as well as madame la mar- 
352 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

qulse, were already inside the Marmouset when 
the bride and groom arrived. More apple- 
blossoms here — banks and festoons of them; 
the deep, winter-smoked fireplace stuffed full; 
loops, bunches, and spirals hanging from the 
rafters, the table a mass of ivory and pink, 
the white cloth with its dishes and viands shin- 
ing through. 

Mignon's lip quivered as she passed the 
threshold, and all her old-time shyness returned. 
This was not her place ! How could she sit down 
and be waited upon — she who had served all 
her life ? But madame would have none of it. 

"To-morrow, my child, you can do as you 
choose; to-day you do as I choose. You are 
not Mignon — ^you are the dear sweet bride 
whom we all want to honor. Besides, love has 
made you a princess, or Monsieur Herbert 
would not insist on your sitting in his own 
chair, which has only held the nobility and per- 
sons of high degree, and which he has wreathed 
in blossoms. And you will sit at the head of the 
table too, with Gaston right next to you." 

As grown-ups often devote themselves to 
amusing children — playing blind-man's-buff, 
puss-in-the-corner, and Santa Claus — so did 

353 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

Herbert and Louis, Le Blanc, Brierley, The 
Architect, madame, and the others lay them- 
selves out to entertain these simple people. 
Lea and Mignon, knowing the ways of gentle- 
folk, soon forgot their shyness, as did Gaston, 
and entered into the spirit of the frolic with- 
out question — but the stiff old mother, and the 
lame uncle, and the aunts and cousins were 
sore distressed, refusing more than a mouthful 
of food, their furtive glances wandering over 
the queer figures and quaint objects of the 
Marmouset — more marvellous than anything 
their eyes had ever rested on. One by one, 
with this and that excuse, they stole away and 
stood outside, their wondering eyes taking in 
the now quiet and satisfied Coco and the ap- 
pointments of the court-yard. 

Soon only our own party and Lea and the 
bride and groom were left, Lemois still the gra- 
cious host; madame pitching the key of the 
merriment, Louis joining in — on his feet one 
minute, proposing the health of the newly 
married couple; his glass filled from the con-r 
tents of the rare punch-bowl entwined with 
blossoms, which madame had given the coterie 
the autumn before; paying profound and florid 
compliments the while to madame la marquise; 
354 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MXJSLIN 

the next, poking fun at Herbert and Le Blanc; 
having a glass of wine with Lemois and another 
with Gaston, who stood up while he drank in 
his effort to play the double role of servant and 
guest, and finally, shouting out that as this was 
to be the last time any one would ever get a 
decent cup of coffee at the Inn, owing to the 
cutting off in the prime of life of the high 
priestess of the roaster — once known as the 
adorable Mademoiselle Mignon — that Madame 
Gaston Dupre should take Lemois' place at the 
small table. "And may I have the distin- 
guished pleasure, madame" — at which the bride 
blushed scarlet, and meekly did as she was 
bid, everybody clapping their hands, including 
Lemois. 

And it was in truth a pretty sight, one never 
to be forgotten: Gaston devouring her with 
his eyes, and the fresh young girl spreading out 
her white muslin frock as she settled into the 
chair which Louis had drawn up for her, mov- 
ing closer the silver coffee-pot with her small 
white hands — and they were really very small 
and very pretty — dropping the sugar she had 
cracked herself into each cup — "One for you, 
is it, madame?" — and "Monsieur Herbert, did 
you say two?" — and all with a gentle, uncon- 
355 



THE ARM-CHAIR AT THE INN 

scious grace and girlish modesty that won our 
hearts anew. 

The snort and chug of Le Blanc's car, pushed 
close to the door, broke up the picture and 
scattered the party. Le Blanc would drive the 
bridal pair home himself — Gaston's mother and 
her relations having already been whisked away 
in madame's motor, with Marc beside the 
chauffeur to see them safely stowed inside their 
respective cabins. 

But it was when the bride stepped into the 
car at the gate — or rather before she stepped 
into it — that the real choke came in our throats. 
Lemois had followed her out, standing apart, 
while Lea hugged and kissed her and the others 
had shaken her hands and said their say; Louis 
standing ready to throw Brierley's two big hunt- 
ing-boots after the couple instead of the time- 
honored slipper; Herbert holding the blossoms 
and the others huge handfuls of rice burglarized 
openly from Pierre's kitchen. 

All this time Mignon had said nothing to 
Lemois, nor had she looked his way. Then at 
last she turned, gazing wistfully at him, but he 
made no move. Only when her slipper touched 
the foot-board did he stir, coming slowly for- 
ward and looking into her eyes. 
3S6 



APPLE-BLOSSOMS AND WHITE MUSLIN 

"You have been a good girl, Mignon," he 
said calmly. 

She thanked him shyly and waited. Sud- 
denly he bent down, took her cheeks between 
his hands, kissed her tenderly on the forehead, 
and with bowed head walked back into the 
Marmouset alone. 

END.